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WIPO's Gurry should welcome an independent investigation of his deputy's allegations against him

I write to report what l believe is serious misconduct by WlPO’s Director General, Francis Gurry. Specifically, l draw your attention to (1) the taking of DNA from senior WIPO staff members without their knowledge or consent, in violation of fundamental human rights, as well as efforts to suppress evidence and investigation of the incident; and (2) evidence of the corruption of a recent procurement that was redirected and awarded to an Australian company led by an acquaintance of Mr. Gurry, even though that company had not been selected in the competitive process. These two issues will be described in greater detail below.

This is the opening paragraph of the Report of Misconduct about World Intellectual Property Organisation Director General Francis Gurry, written by WIPO Deputy Director James Pooley on 2nd April and sent to the Chairs of the General Assemblies and Coordination Committee of the organisation.

I would love to be able to link to the entire document, but as discussed previously on here, when Gene Quinn of the IP Watchdog site did just that he subsequently received a letter from WIPO legal counsel Edward Kwakwa demanding that the link to what was described as “false and defamatory material” be removed. Please be informed that if this request is not immediately acceded to, the Director General and WIPO will seek independent legal advise to bring defamation proceedings against you in any competent jurisdiction,” the letter concluded. Given this threat made to Quinn and the resources available to the Director General and WIPO, until we are clear as to our legal position with regards to linking to the full Report we feel – with great regret – that we are not in a position to do so.

Last week, Gurry was re-elected by WIPO member states to serve a second term as Director General. However, if he believed that this would make the Pooley accusations go away, he was very quickly disabused of that notion. The IP Watch website reports that immediately after the vote, a member of the South Korean delegation made a speech to the assembly asking for a transparent and independent investigation of the issues raised by Pooley. The Mission of the United States in Geneva subsequently issued a statement that called for the same thing and which concluded: “We expect this investigation to be implemented promptly and executed expeditiously.”

Meanwhile, in an article (registration required) published on the Foreign Policy website, an unnamed State Department spokesman commented: “We are aware of the complaints made by Mr Pooley, a senior WIPO official, and believe that such complaints must be treated seriously and transparently. In that regard, the United States believes that a full, independent, and external investigation of all complaints is warranted, and is in consultation with other member states towards that end.”

IAM does not know whether there is any truth in the allegations that James Pooley has made. But we do know that he has made them. Because of the position he holds we believe very strongly that it is in the public interest for them to be available for scrutiny. We can see no justification whatsoever for anyone at WIPO to threaten to sue a blogger or any kind of reporter who merely links to the Report. We believe the letter Kwakwa sent to Quinn was a complete disgrace.

We also note that there has been no independent and transparent investigation of the allegations that Pooley makes, so we find it extraordinary that Kwakwa states that they are “false and defamatory”. How can he possibly know this? Indeed, the fact that WIPO’s legal counsel makes such claims surely emphasises the need for the independent and transparent investigation that both the Koreans and the Americans have called for.

Because of their seriousness, it would be no surprise if Pooley’s allegations had caused Gurry deep distress. To be accused of breaching human rights and corruption must be a profoundly unpleasant experience – perhaps triggering all kinds of negative emotions, mental stress and maybe even physical illness. If Gurry is innocent of the charges then all of that is to be hugely regretted. But he is also the Director General of a United Nations organisation and, I repeat, the charges have been made by someone who is extremely senior in the same organisation and highly respected in IP. They cannot just be ignored – by Gurry, by WIPO member states or, indeed, by the press.

Given that, surely what would now best serve Gurry’s interests is that transparent and independent enquiry. It would give him the opportunity to set out his case in full and to answer all the allegations that have been made. If there is no basis to the accusations, that should very rapidly become apparent. As an honourable man, James Pooley could then make a public apology to Gurry and the whole unpleasant episode could be consigned to history.  

Francis Gurry is a member of the IP Hall of Fame and has made a number of hugely important contributions to the development of the global IP infrastructure. In the ideal world, that’s what his time in charge of WIPO should be remembered for. I, for one, certainly hope that this is how it turns out. So let’s see that investigation get underway as quickly as possible.

Joff Wild
IAM Magazine
11 May 2014

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RE: WIPO's Gurry should welcome an independent investigation of his deputy's allegations against him

To be fair, Joff, Gene Quinn did not merely link to Pooley's complaint. While a number of us in the blogging and journalistic sphere have a copy of the document, it is not publicly available, and it is pretty clear that it was leaked to Gene. You cannot simply 'link' to it, any more than I could. You need to publish it, and that is where you get into trouble!

I have made no secret of the fact that I believe this witch-hunt quite likely has its origins in domestic US political unrest about WIPO's role in providing technical assistance to North Korea and Iran, and forming closer ties with Russia and China (http://blog.patentology.com.au/2014/04/us-still-seething-over-wipo-computers.html). It would therefore be equally legitimate for an independent journalist to ask who leaked the Pooley document to Quinn, and why.

If the content of the document is untrue, then Gurry is within his rights to use defamation laws to restrict its publication and distribution. I agree that there is a clear public interest in having all of this resolved through an independent inquiry. The question is, with all of this political intrigue, how would we know that it was truly independent? We should hardly be surprised that South Korea is the country now joining the fray, if 'support' for North Korea is one of the major motivating factors behind all this. Given recent agitation along the North/South border, maintaining the relationship with the US must currently be a priority for Seoul.

The United Nations has been a hotbed of manipulation and skullduggery pretty much since its inception. We should not be surprised that WIPO is not immune from this. Transparency would be great. But this is not just about transparency over Gurry's actions. Pooley's motivations, and the role of the US in the whole affair, should also be put under the microscope.

Mark Summerfield, Watermark on 11 May 2014 @ 13:27

RE: WIPO's Gurry should welcome an independent investigation of his deputy's allegations against him

Mark - thanks for your comments. In my eyes an independent and transparent investigation would be one conducted by someone whose appointment has been agreed by all the key players - including Francis Gurry - and whose remit has been similarly agreed. Potentially, part of the remit could be the investigation of how and why Pooley's allegations were made in the first place. You could be right that this is just a political stitch-up, but until everything is looked into we will not know. And I think Gurry deserves and should welcome the opportunity to put his case.

I profoundly disagree that Gurry and WIPO should have the right to threaten legal action and criminal prosecution against bloggers/reporters who merely publish/link to the allegations made by Pooley. They may be untrue, they may be scurrilous, but they have been made, on the record, by a senior member of the organisation Gurry runs. For me, that is the story right now - not who leaked the accusations in the first place. If others wish to pursue the leaker, that is up to them. For me, one of the most important jobs of a journalist (not sure about bloggers specifically) is to shine a light on stuff that is happening behind closed doors. After all, WIPO is a UN body, mostly funded by IP owners. They have a right to hold those who take their money, and whose wages they pay, to account. They can only do that if they have as clear a picture as possible of what is happening.

Joff Wild, IAM Magazine on 12 May 2014 @ 01:44

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