The World Intellectual Property Organization, also referred to as WIPO, is a United Nations Agency that fosters intellectual property rights. Its main purpose is to protect such rights through patents, trademarks, and copyrights. Before learning about WIPO, it is first important to know what intellectual property is and how it can be protected. There are two branches of intellectual property rights: industrial property and copyright. The first encompasses inventions, designs, and trademarks. The second includes things like musical pieces, movies, photographs, and artwork.

Creation of WIPO: An Overview

Intellectual property rights were created roughly a century ago. During the time prior to that, there was really no such thing as international protection, as such protection varied from country to country and was effective only in that respective state. At that point, it became known that additional protection was needed to encourage artists, composers, writers, and inventors to continue their work. Thereafter, the Paris Convention of 1883, along with the Bern Convention of 1886 were enacted to begin implementing international protection, which ultimately led to the creation of the WIPO.

Functions of WIPO for Resolving Disputes

The functions of WIPO expanded in the 1990s when the organization signed a cooperation agreement with the World Trade Organization. Furthermore, electronic inventions continued during that time, which caused an additional need for international protection. Therefore, WIPO continued helping to resolve disputes over Internet domain names. Such IP disputes continue, and WIPO works to resolve any disputes by having its member states and the unions meet once every 2 years in an ordinary session. Such meetings are usually conducted during the later part of the year for a total of ten days.

What Does WIPO Protect?

WIPO protects many types of intellectual property, including the following:

  1. Books
  2. Paintings
  3. Music pieces
  4. Photographs
  5. Scientific inventions
  6. Television programs
  7. Movies
  8. Short films
  9. Industrial designs
  10. Trademarks
  11. Service marks
  12. All other inventions

WIPO also protects against unfair competition. Such protection is fostered through several unions or treaties. As of May 2006, WIPO had already administered approximately 23 unions or treaties, including but not limited to the Paris Union (protection of industrial property), Madrid Agreement, Nice Union, Vienna Union, Budapest Union, and the Geneva Trademark Law Treaty.

WIPO Membership

There are currently 183 members of WIPO. Membership is open to any state that is:

  1. A member of any one of the unions
  2. A member of the UN
  3. A party to the Statute of the International Court of Justice
  4. Invited by WIPO to become a member

WIPO Engagement

WIPO has offices in Brussels, NYC, Washington D.C., and Singapore. These offices establish the relationships between member countries and work closely with the unions and treaties to ensure that IP rights are being protected internationally. The four offices engage in other activities, including fostering relationships with other Non-Government Organizations (NGO), other business associations, and professional associations. They also have workshops and seminars on the concept of intellectual property and WIPO’s protection of IP.

Regarding NGOs, there are currently 250 with observer status that attend WIPO meetings. Such NGOs include groups from industry and civil society. In order to obtain this status, you can send in a written request to the WIPO Secretariat. Once approved, your business will be able to attend all WIPO meetings. Your involvement will play a crucial role to help resolve any potential disputes or issues surrounding international IP protection.

WIPO provides various services to the private sector for a fee. This helps WIPO sustain itself financially by using the funds it receives from such services to continue operating. Such operations must continue in order to ensure international IP protection. Furthermore, some of the most costly and widely used protections of WIPO include the following:

  1. Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), which helps those seeking international patent protection. While the PCT doesn’t officially protect you in all countries, it will provide you with details and directions on what is required to obtain patent protection in any given country.
  2. The Madrid System, which provides international trademark protection
  3. The Hague System for the International Registration of Industrial Designs

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