Francis Gurry is the Director General of the World Intellectual Property (WIPO), which is the global forum for intellectual property services, policy, information and cooperation. It is a self-funding agency of the United Nations, with 191 member states. The mission of WIPO is to lead the development of a balanced and effective international intellectual property (IP) system that enables innovation and creativity for the benefit of all.As part of his official visit to the Sultanate, Francis Gurry met on March 7, 2018 with the President of Sultan Qaboos University and other senior officials. Gurry hailed the long-standing cooperation between Oman and WIPO in a number of fields pertaining to intellectual property rights, policies and information.
Could you comment on your visit to Oman and SQU?
The visit to Oman consolidates and builds on the excellent cooperation between WIPO and Oman in the field of intellectual property. I met with a number of senior Omani officials, including the Minister of Commerce and Industry and the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. Discussions centered on the opportunities and challenges related to intellectual property rights and policies in the backdrop of efforts of Sultanate in adapting an innovation strategy to become an innovation powerhouse in the region. We are pleased to enjoy a strong collaboration with SQU and we are looking forward to extend this cooperation through a variety of different activities. In our meeting with SQU officials; we discussed the possibility of organizing a summer program in intellectual property rights and innovation. The discussions with the University authorities were fruitful and we are grateful for the warm welcome in Oman and SQU.
What are the major strategies that WIPO adapts to encourage innovation and creativity across the developing countries?
Innovation strategies are key to the economic well-being of states and WIPO has been actively supporting the development of such strategies with its member states. In today’s world, everyone is looking for ways to add value in their respective sectors of the economy ranging from the primary industry sector, through the agricultural and industry sector to the services sector. Intellectual Property is an important instrument in doing this.
What are the challenges in managing international patent and copyright systems in the backdrop of rapid technological advancements?
It is certainly the case that there are great differences in technological capacity across the world. I would say two things about this. One is that the global innovation landscape is changing; we see a different geography of innovation emerging. For example, the region that powers the most international patent applications is Asia, not Europe or North America. Asia files about 47% of all international patent applications whereas the share of the United States of America (USA is 25% and that of Europe is around 25%. Worldwide filings for patents, trademarks and industrial designs reached record heights in 2016 amid soaring demand in China, which received more patent applications than the combined total for the USA, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the European Patent Office. China gained this achievement within a very short period.
For any country, it requires a very careful strategy to acquire foreign technology in various ways such as investment, cooperation, partnerships and so on in order to develop the technological capacity at the micro level. Oman has adopted this strategy. Promoting innovation across society requires a comprehensive strategy that combines education, availability of support systems for staff, and so on with the primary objective being value addition to the products or services; and to increase the knowledge component in the production process.
Could you offer some global statistics on the increased demand for intellectual property rights and copyrights in the current era?
Global statistics show that innovators around the world filed 3.1 million patent applications in 2016, up 8.3% the seventh straight yearly increase. Trademarks applications jumped by 16.4% to about 7 million, and worldwide industrial design applications grew by 10.4% to almost 1 million – both also driven by growth in China. The increase in demand for patents and trademarks in the past 10 years is a clear indicator of the emergence of knowledge economy. IP registrations are growing at a faster pace than the rate of growth of the world economy, which is roughly 3.5%.