Introduction to WIPO & its Functions


Compiled By: Parveen Kaswan ( Add on Facebook for more updates)


World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO)  carries out a wide variety of tasks related to the protection of IP rights. These include assisting governments and organizations to develop the policies, structures and skills needed to harness the potential of IP for economic development; working with Member States to develop international IP law; administering treaties; running global registration systems for trademarks, industrial designs and appellations of origin and a filing system for patents; delivering dispute resolution services; and providing a forum for informed debate and for the exchange of expertise.

It  is  United Nations specialised agency that coordinates international treaties regarding intellectual property rights. Its 184 member states comprise over 90% of the countries of the world, who participate in WIPO to negotiate treaties and set policy on intellectual property matters such as patents, copyrights and trademarks.

WIPO was established in 1967 by the WIPO Convention, which states that WIPO’s objective was “to promote the protection of intellectual property throughout the world …” (WIPO, 1967, Article 3). Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, WIPO currently administers 24 treaties and facilitates the negotiation of several proposed treaties covering copyrights, patents and trademarks.


Basically the Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), concluded  about categorization that “intellectual property shall include rights  relating to:

  • literary, artistic and scientific works,
  • performances of performing artists, phonograms and broadcasts,
  • inventions in all fields of human endeavor,
  • scientific discoveries,
  • industrial designs,
  • trademarks, service marks and commercial names and designations,
  • protection against unfair competition,

and all other rights resulting from intellectual activity in the industrial, scientific, literary or artistic fields.”

The areas mentioned as literary, artistic and scientific works belong to the copyright branch  of intellectual property. The areas mentioned as performances of performing artists, phonograms  and broadcasts are usually called “related rights,” that is, rights related to copyright. The areas  entioned as inventions, industrial designs, trademarks, service marks and commercial names and designations constitute the industrial property branch of intellectual property. The area mentioned as protection against unfair competition may also be considered as belonging to that branch, the more so as Article 1(2) of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (Stockholm Act of 1967) (the “Paris Convention”) includes “the repression of unfair competition” among the areas of “the protection of industrial property”; the said Convention states that “any act of competition contrary to honest practices in industrial and commercial matters constitutes an act of unfair competition” (Article 10bis(2)).

  • The five strategic goals laid out by WIPO in its 2005-2006 programme and budget are:
  • To promote an extensive intellectual property culture
  • To integrate intellectual property into national development policies and programmes
  • To develop international intellectual property laws and standards (partially defined as promoting laws forbidding the circumvention of technological restrictions)
  • To deliver quality services in global intellectual property protection systems
  • To increase the efficiency of WIPO’s management and support processes.

WIPO is unique among UN organisations in that its activities are largely self-funded. Approximately 90% of WIPO’s 2006-2007 budget of CHF 531 million (USD 440 million) comes from the fees its earns for international trademark registrations and patent applications. The remaining 10% of WIPO’s budget is earned from fees for its arbitration and mediation services, publications, and from small contributions from member states.

 Key members/participants and decision-making structures: WIPO is made up of 184 member states and operates on a “one country, one vote” basis. It is governed by a General Assembly, which convenes each autumn and oversees the activities of the organisation, including its budget, while a number of issue-specific committees work on the substantive issues. The revenues generated from patent and trademark fees enable WIPO to support a staff of approximately 1,000 people, which is rather large by UN standards.

Although WIPO administers 24 treaties that deal with intellectual property rights, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) administers what is arguably the most important treaty on the subject, the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement). Unlike WIPO treaties, the TRIPS Agreement includes powerful enforcement mechanisms such as trade sanctions and litigation before the World Court that force countries into compliance with the provisions in the agreement.

The WTO’s TRIPS Agreement was signed in 1994, and states in its preamble the desire to “establish a mutually supportive relationship between the WTO and the World Intellectual Property  rganisation.” (WTO, 1994) In 1996 the WTO and WIPO signed a cooperation agreement to facilitate the implementation of the TRIPS Agreement.

In 1996 WIPO passed two treaties collectively known as the “Internet Treaties” in response to the demands of intellectual property holders worried about infringement in cyberspace. The passage of the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) (WIPO, 1996a) and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT) (WIPO, 1996b) marked an important change for WIPO’s involvement in setting ICT regulation (and for copyright law).

India is an active member and participant in WIPO. The International Conference on the Utilization of the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library as a Model for Protection of Traditional Knowledge, was also  organized by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), in cooperation with the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), in New Delhi, India, from March 22 to 24, 2011. After fighting successfully for the revocation of turmeric and basmati patents granted by United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and neem patent granted by European Patent Office (EPO), India initiated its project for the creation of a Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) in 2001. This model is well accepted by International Community and a very good mechanism for saving our  traditional knowledge from patents by foreign individuals.

(Reference: WIPO )


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