Joff Wild

Francis Gurry has been elected the new director-general of WIPO. In a run-off poll with José Graça Aranha this evening, after the other candidates for the post had either been eliminated or had withdrawn, Gurry defeated the Brazilian by 42 votes to 41. The election of the Australian will be welcomed by many countries in the developed world and should also prove popular among WIPO staff. This is something that will be important as Gurry attempts to restore morale inside the office after the turbulent reign of Kamil Idris. The Sudanese national will depart with a tasty pension when his term officially ends in September. It is then that Gurry will be officially confirmed in his post by the General Assembly of all WIPO members.

Given the political way in which so many of the decisions around these types of appointment are made, I had thought that Graça Aranha was going to be a shoe-in, so it’s lucky I am not a betting man! However, I am pleased that Gurry has come out on top. He is someone I have met on several occasions and who I know thinks deeply about intellectual property. From the conversations I have had with him, it is clear that he understands IP’s political and, crucially, its economic importance. He also has a track record of delivery, having presided over the creation of the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Centre, which has provided a highly-successful domain name dispute resolution service since its inception back in the 1990s.

But he has a hell of a job on his hands. During the latter years of the Idris regime, WIPO was embroiled in controversy as the DG was found not only to have failed to disclose his true age, but was also accused of various other things that called into question his integrity, although it is important to add that nothing was ever proved. But whether he was guilty of misdemeanours or not, Idris clearly lost the confidence not only of a number of WIPO’s member states, but also of many of the office’s staff. Gurry’s job is to ensure that everything inside the office – such as promotions and money allocation - is fully transparent, while at the same time putting WIPO in the centre of the debate about how IP can and should affect the world. I am sure we all wish him luck!

Here is the report that the IP Watch online news service, which has very strong connections inside WIPO, has put together on the vote. Note that the US is pleased, that some WIPO staff, at least, are delighted, that Gurry's most recent WIPO brief encompassed patents and that he has also served as the organisation's general counsel. This is a good appointment.