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    WIPO Seeks To Calm Anxiety About Technical Assistance To North Korea

    Published on 6 April 2012 @ 2:58 pm

    By , Intellectual Property Watch

    The UN World Intellectual Property Organization has responded to a question about its provision of technical assistance to North Korea, saying it is standard procedure as authorised by its member states hoping to bring developing countries on board the global IP system.

    “The provision of a modest amount of computer equipment to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is part of WIPO’s standard technical assistance program to developing countries,” a WIPO spokesperson said in a statement. “It does not violate any UN Security Council resolutions.”

    WIPO delivers technical assistance to most of its members, often in the form of computers to enable intellectual property offices’ capabilities. It oversees the computer installation and does follow up visits to confirm their proper use, according to a WIPO source. This week, the question arose about whether it should provide computers to countries against which restrictions are imposed by the UN to prevent nuclear proliferation. But the source said there could not be any danger of misuse of ordinary computers installed for patent database searches and the like.

    North Korea is a member of WIPO, as are countries such as Iran and Cuba, reflecting the diversity and convening power of the UN. Member states approve the WIPO program and budget every year and are generally aware of the type of technical assistance the organisation is providing, though every single project is not cleared as they occur.

    “The program, mandated by WIPO’s 185 member states, has been supporting IP offices in developing countries to facilitate the processing of patent and trademark applications since the 1990s,” the WIPO spokesperson said in the statement. “In 2011, technical assistance was provided under this program to over 80 countries/IP offices. The assistance is made available to member states in the context of WIPO’s wider development program.”

    WIPO has helped North Korea’s IP office with technical assistance in the past, without questions being raised. “IP offices need computers,” the WIPO source said.

    “The office automation assistance to the DPRK is intended to enhance the efficiency of patent processing operations,” the spokesperson said. “The project was developed in accordance with WIPO’s needs-assessment and validation procedures and followed due processes – procurement and other – applicable in this context.”

    The difference this time is that a conflagatory article appearing on Fox online this week documented WIPO’s provision of computers to North Korea and raised alarm that this might run afoul of UN rules limiting the giving of technology to the country. Fox is a highly politicised US website with a tradition of conservative UN-bashing. Fox follower Gene Quinn of the US IPWatchdog blog readily picked up the story.

    The Fox article included a WIPO Staff Council letter which suggested member states are not aware of this type of activity by the secretariat. The article also included a 7-page internal memorandum from WIPO General Counsel Edward Kwakwa, providing an assessment that the activity is not in violation of UN rules.

    The reason the assistance caught attention this time is that the payment to a contractor for the computers exceeded $50,000 (it was $52,638). It was made from a US bank in New York by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) – which handles technical assistance programme payments in coordination with WIPO – so the amount triggered a routine check of the transfer.

    WIPO has since completed the payment, to the Chinese company that did the work, through a non-US channel, a source said.

    “Standard technical assistance under this program includes needs-assessment, assistance in planning of modernization of technical infrastructure in IP offices and training of officers in such offices, the provision of WIPO’s software for IP office automation, and the provision of basic office IT equipment for electronic procedures of IP office functions and services,” the spokesperson said.

    WIPO is currently undergoing a review of its technical assistance through the Committee on Development and IP, mainly to ensure that it is sufficiently development-friendly and effective (IPW, WIPO, 3 April 2012).

    Perhaps providing computers will be something the member states decide to discuss at the next annual WIPO General Assembly in September. Even a technical body like one dealing with intellectual property rights is not immune from global political trends.

    [Note: North Korea is called the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.]

    William New may be reached at wnew@ip-watch.ch.

     

    Comments

    1. US Congress Members Urge US To Oppose Re-Election Of WIPO Director Gurry | Intellectual Property Watch says:

      […] as part of its programme to provide technical assistance to its members (see IP-Watch reporting here, here and here). Iran and North Korea are highly sanctioned by the US, and the WIPO shipments […]


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    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website. By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website.

    By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    1. You agree that you are fully responsible for the content that you post. You will not knowingly post content that violates the copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property right of any third party or which you know is under a confidentiality obligation preventing its publication and that you will request removal of the same should you discover that you have violated this provision. Likewise, you may not post content that is libelous, defamatory, obscene, abusive, that violates a third party's right to privacy, that otherwise violates any applicable local, state, national or international law, that amounts to spamming or that is otherwise inappropriate. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual preference, disability or other classification. Epithets and other language intended to intimidate or to incite violence are also prohibited. Furthermore, you may not impersonate others.

    2. You understand and agree that Intellectual Property Watch is not responsible for any content posted by you or third parties. You further understand that IP Watch does not monitor the content posted. Nevertheless, IP Watch may monitor the any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove, edit or otherwise alter content that it deems inappropriate for any reason whatever without consent nor notice. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on our site. IP Watch is not in any manner endorsing the content of the discussion forums and cannot and will not vouch for its reliability or otherwise accept liability for it.

    3. By submitting any contribution to IP Watch, you warrant that your contribution is your own original work and that you have the right to make it available to IP Watch for all purposes and you agree to indemnify IP Watch, its directors, employees and agents against all damages, legal fees and others expenses that may be incurred by IP Watch as a result of your breach of warranty or of these terms.

    4. You further agree not to publish any personal information about yourself or anyone else (for example telephone number or home address). If you add a comment to a blog, be aware that your email address will be apparent.

    5. IP Watch will not be liable for any loss including but not limited to the following (whether such losses are foreseen, known or otherwise): loss of data, loss of revenue or anticipated profit, loss of business, loss of opportunity, loss of goodwill or injury to reputation, losses suffered by third parties, any indirect, consequential or exemplary damages.

    6. You understand and agree that the discussion forums are to be used only for non-commercial purposes. You may not solicit funds, promote commercial entities or otherwise engage in commercial activity in our discussion forums.

    7. You acknowledge and agree that you use and/or rely on any information obtained through the discussion forums at your own risk.

    8. For any content that you post, you hereby grant to IP Watch the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual, exclusive and fully sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part, world-wide and to incorporate it in other works, in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

    9. These terms and your posts and contributions shall be governed and interpreted in accordance with the laws of Switzerland (without giving effect to conflict of laws principles thereof) and any dispute exclusively settled by the Courts of the Canton of Geneva.

     

     
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