AUSTRALIAN LAWYER Francis Gurry has been nominated as the next Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
If his appointment is approved, Gurry will become the fourth Director General of WIPO, and the third Australian to serve as head of a United Nations agency. Before joining WIPO in 1985, he practised as an attorney in Melbourne and Sydney, and also lectured at the University of Melbourne law school.
Gurry was selected from a list which originally included 15 candidates. The final selection process was marred by controversy with the withdrawal of seven candidates following the second round of formal voting. The sudden opening-up of the field resulted in a near 50/50 split between the incumbent Gurry and José Graça Aranha, a national of Brazil. At the final count; Gurry received 42 votes and Aranha 41 votes.
The Australian government greeted the announcement with a strong show of support, issuing a joint statement from the Ministries of Trade Foreign Affairs, Trade, Innovation and Science and the Attorney General’s Department. The government was quick to credit the appointment to Australia’s intellectual property system.
“The nomination of Dr Gurry for WIPO Director General serves as a further demonstration of the new Australian Government’s strong commitment to greater engagement with the United Nations system,” it said. “It also reflects the importance the Government places on building a strong, balanced and accessible international intellectual property system.”
The government statement went on to praise Australia’s own efforts on the IP front: “Australia has a comprehensive IP system and makes a strong contribution to both the policy and technical aspects of WIPO’s work. Intellectual property is critical to the continued growth of world trade, to growth in services and investment flows, and to the international economy more broadly.”
However, it seems likely that Dr Gurry’s selection by the Committee members owes far more to his extensive academic and professional experience than an irreproachable Australian IP regime.
The Director General-elect holds law degrees from the University of Melbourne and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. Gurry joined WIPO in 1985 as a consultant in the Development Co-operation and External Relations Bureau for Asia and the Pacific.
He has assumed various posts since that time, including Head of the Industrial Property Law Section, Special Assistant to the Director General and Director-Counselor in the Office of the Director General and Director, WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Centre and Acting Legal Counsel.
The Director General-elect will assume his duties on October 1, following appointment by the General Assembly.