James Pooley, the former deputy director for innovation and technology at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), has said he has no regrets about submitting a Report of Misconduct to the organisation’s general assemblies and coordination committee in which he made a series of explosive allegations against Francis Gurry, the UN agency’s director-general. In an exclusive interview with IAM, Pooley said that given the gravity of the issues he had no other choice; he also insisted that the decision to go ahead was his alone and that nobody had prompted him. “People who are worried about my motivations should read the report,” Pooley stated. “That will show why I felt compelled as a matter of ethics to write it. Whatever political problems it might have caused are not my concern – I acted on my own initiative and did what I thought I had to do. ”
Pooley filed the report last April. In it, he detailed what he claimed were violations of the fundamental human rights of senior WIPO staff by Gurry in relation to DNA samples taken from them without their consent; he also focused on a procurement process that ended favourably for an Australian company headed by someone who, he stated, was an acquaintance of Gurry’s.
After he linked to the report in a story he wrote for the IP Watchdog website, blogger Gene Quinn was accused of publishing “false and defamatory material” by WIPO legal counsel Edward Kwakwa and threatened with legal action; but it has since emerged that following the interjection of some WIPO member states, including the US and South Korea, two independent parties looked at the matters raised by Pooley and concluded that they merited formal investigation. Although it is thought that this process did get underway, its current status is not clear. Pooley believes that it may have stalled. “It seems as if the investigation has been interrupted and that the US and several other countries are seeking to get it restarted, as well as to ensure that it is conducted properly and fully independently,” he said. IAM contacted WIPO for clarification and was referred to the organisation’s Internal Oversight Charter. This, a spokesman stated, “is clear about the confidential nature of any complaints that are filed with the Internal Oversight Division and any follow up there may or may not be.”
Pooley left WIPO on 30th November 2014 when his five year mandate came to an end; he is now building a Silicon Valley-based legal practice and is due to publish a book on trade secrets later this year entitled Secrets: Managing Information Assets in the Age of Cyberespionage. The backing he has had since filing the report has been immensely satisfying, he said: “I’m pleased to say that I’ve received very strong support from my colleagues in the US IP community, who have expressed gratitude that I was willing to report my concerns. I’ve also benefited from robust engagement by the team at the US Mission in Geneva, who continue to insist on an independent investigation. I have received quiet but sincere expressions of support from colleagues inside WIPO and in the Geneva diplomatic community.”
Although both he and Gurry are very well-known figures in the global IP community, Pooley said he did not feel that there were any conflicts of loyalty among their many mutual acquaintances: “People are properly focused on the facts, and the need to verify what happened so that the [WIPO] member states can decide what if anything to do. This is about governance and transparency of process; it’s not about personalities.”
Pooley told IAM that personal animus played no part in his original decision to write the report: “I don’t have time for that kind of thing. I have great respect and admiration for Francis, particularly in regard to the ways in which he has helped to advance the cause of IP. But I could not ignore the issues the report raises and concluded after thinking about it very carefully that I had no other option than the one I took.” Now, he continued, it is imperative that the investigation be allowed to run its course. “It’s not terribly complicated: experienced, independent professionals have to be given the tools to look into this and to reach their conclusions. That means giving them full access to all relevant documents and enabling them to talk to witnesses who are fully protected from possible retaliatory action and so able to talk freely and frankly.”
If the investigation is not completed or a full explanation for its termination is not provided, Pooley said, the repercussions for WIPO and the UN in general would be serious: “As a point of principle we should expect a public institution to be responsive to situations like this and to be ready to co-operate fully with any attempts to look at what are very serious allegations. Were this not to be the case then staff inside the institution would conclude that it was not serious about uncovering cases of potential wrong-doing, while those on the outside would lose trust in it.” Trust and goodwill, he claimed, are vital to any public institution’s efficacy - once lost they are extremely difficult to restore.