Joff Wild

No-one at WIPO is talking on the record about Brazil’s threats to reopen the director-general nomination election, won by Francis Gurry in May. However, I have spoken to some people at the office and they confirm that what I have been reporting is true. Namely, that the Brazilians are touting for an alternative to Gurry; that they have questioned the legality of the vote that saw him nominated, on the basis that it did not represent 50% plus one, as the rules set out, but 50% plus ½; and that they are doing this because they feel Gurry may be too pro-developed world in the patent sphere and will be less of an advocate for the developing world agenda.

That said, there are also serious doubts as to whether all of this will actually lead to anything. Those I have spoken to point out that, in fact, Gurry actually received a good deal of support from the developing world, in particular from Africa. They also state that Brazil does not seem to have many allies – perhaps only Portugal and Honduras. While this would be enough to trigger a new election when the WIPO General Assembly meets in September, the feeling is that Gurry would win this as he has the backing of at least the two-thirds of the member states he would require. With regard to the mathematics of the May vote, I understand that UN legal advisers have been consulted and they do not think there is a problem.

So, while the Brazilian government is still clearly considering its options, the betting has to be that in the end there will be no formal challenge and that Gurry’s position is safe. If they were decide to go the other way and throw down the gauntlet the Brazilians would be taking a major risk and could end up diplomatically isolated at a time when, it seems, the general will of WIPO members is to begin the process of rebuilding the organisation’s battered reputation.

Of course, what Brazil has done in taking its stance is ensured that when he does become DG Gurry will be very sensitive about how his words and actions will affect the developing world agenda, and Brazil’s in particular. Thus, the Brazilians may have very cleverly ensured that the head of the UN’s IP agency will always make sure he has their position on patents and other types of right at the forefront of his mind as he leads WIPO over the next six years.