US Congressional Hearing On WIPO Accountability This Week 22/02/2016 by William New, Intellectual Property Watch 5 Comments Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Several subcommittees of the United States Congress have scheduled a joint hearing this week on accountability and possible mistreatment of staff and whistleblowers at the UN World Intellectual Property Organization. The witness list for the hearing includes several high-level critics of WIPO Director General Francis Gurry who used to work for him. Meanwhile, observers are questioning what has happened to the report from an official UN investigation of WIPO. The Joint Subcommittee Hearing: Establishing Accountability at the World Intellectual Property Organization: Illicit Technology Transfers, Whistleblowing, and Reform, is scheduled for Wednesday, 24 February. The hearing is expected to be publicly webcast. Slated to testify are: James Pooley, a patent attorney who was deputy director for innovation and technology at WIPO under the current director general, Francis Gurry; Miranda Brown, former strategic adviser to Gurry; and Moncef Kateb, former president of the WIPO Staff Association. [Update: a change has been made in the witness list – Kateb will be replaced by attorney Matthew Parish, founder and managing director, Gentium Law Group, which serves as legal counsel to the WIPO Staff Council] While in office, Pooley filed a report of misconduct [pdf] by WIPO Director General Gurry (IPW, WIPO, 7 May 2014). Pooley is an American and a veteran Silicon Valley patent attorney who joined Gurry’s senior management team in 2008 and completed his term in November 2014, after Gurry was re-elected. Among other things, Pooley’s report cited a suspected order by Gurry to collect DNA on several staff members from their offices during an investigation without their consent or knowledge. Brown was brought in as a high-level adviser to Gurry, a fellow Australian, at the start of his first term in 2008, but she soon balked at what she saw as unacceptable practices by Gurry and later left the organisation as a whistleblower. Kateb, the former head of the Algerian Copyright Office and long-time WIPO employee, was fired and ushered out of the building with his computer seized in September 2014 on seemingly questionable grounds on the eve of a speech to the WIPO membership in which he was expected to blast Gurry (IPW, WIPO, 22 September 2016). Kateb was a whistleblower in an investigation of WIPO and Gurry for shipping computers and other high-tech equipment to heavily sanctioned Iran and North Korea. Where is UN Investigation Report? A key aspect of this week’s hearing would be the outcome of a formal UN investigation of the allegations made against Gurry. But the progress of the investigation has been unusually secret. It was carried out by an office at UN headquarters in New York, the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), according to a source. Sources say the report has been completed by now, but the results do not appear to have been circulated to member states. [Update: Sources say the report was sent to Colombian Ambassador Gabriel Duque in Geneva, who is currently chair of the WIPO General Assemblies. He is reportedly under pressure to circulate the report. Among other sources, the Fox website has reported on the issue.] The investigation has been under extreme secrecy since it was put in the hands of the WIPO internal audit and oversight division and the small WIPO Audit Committee a year or two ago. US Cut Funding to WIPO over Whistleblower Issues US patent and trademark attorneys and businesses are the biggest users of WIPO, a UN agency that gets more than 90 percent of its income from fees for services. But of the remainder of its income that comes from government donations, the US State Department last September cut its contribution to WIPO’s budget by 15 percent as a statement of concern over whistleblower protections at WIPO. WIPO was the only agency worldwide sanctioned for this by State under this program. Another Attempt for Hearing The House Foreign Affairs subcommittees cosponsoring the hearing are: Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, and Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa. The House Foreign Affairs Committee tried in 2012 – ironically also a US presidential election year – to hold a similar hearing but cancelled it after claiming the people invited to speak were denied travel permission by Gurry (IPW, WIPO, 24 July 2012). Gurry had defended his actions regarding staff travel to the committee in part by saying he would authorise appropriate people to testify at the hearing but not the ones invited (IPW, WIPO, 20 July 2012). Now, however, none of the invited witnesses works under Gurry, and apparently have not signed “gag” orders preventing them from speaking about their time at WIPO. (Some former WIPO employees have reportedly accepted such orders as part of a buyout.) Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related William New may be reached at email@example.com."US Congressional Hearing On WIPO Accountability This Week" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.