18 February 2020Rory O'Neill

Ex-Trump security advisor warns against Chinese leadership of WIPO

Former White House official John Bolton has said the “ability to protect IP is gravely threatened” if a Chinese-backed candidate becomes the new director general of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Bolton, who resigned as US national security advisor to President Donald Trump in September last year, made the statement on Twitter, adding that “China has already done enormous damage to the US stealing our IP”.

He also endorsed a report published by conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, which said that China-backed Wang Binying’s candidacy for WIPO general director represents a “threat to IP”.

Wang currently serves as WIPO deputy director general for brands and designs. She first joined WIPO’s international bureau in 1993, having previously served as managing director of the China Trademark Service.

Her candidacy for WIPO leadership was proposed by Wang Yi, Chinese minister for foreign affairs.

The Heritage report said that, should Wang be elected as WIPO chief, the US should withdraw from the PCT, while US businesses and inventors should be encouraged to boycott WIPO’s patent system.

The think tank, whose stated aim is to help President Trump “drain the swamp”, said that Wang’s leadership of WIPO would allow undue Chinese influence over the global IP system.

China has long denied US allegations about the weakness of its IP protection system. Against the backdrop of tense negotiations over a new trade deal, the Chinese government has enacted several reforms over the past year aimed at strengthening its international reputation on IP.

WIPR has previously covered the extent to which IP has become a proxy in the geopolitical rivalry between the world’s two biggest economies. Some experts consider allegations of forced technology transfer from US companies looking to access the Chinese market to be overblown.

But US officials remain adamant that China is not strong enough on IP protection.

Four members of Congress had previously written to Trump expressing their concerns over a Chinese WIPO director general. The congressmen, led by senator Tom Cotton, told Trump: “We cannot let a regime, which continues to blatantly undermine the rules-based system by failing to ensure open markets or respect for IP rights, ascend as the leader of global IP policy.”

Wang is just one of seven candidates contesting the race to succeed Francis Gurry as WIPO director general, with three having already withdrawn their candidacy.

The others include Japan’s Kenichiro Natsume, who heads WIPO’s PCT legal and international affairs department, and Intellectual Property Office of Singapore chief executive Daren Tang.

Colombia’s Marco Matías Alemán and Peru’s Ivo Gagliuffi Piercechi are both looking to become the first director general from the Latin American region.

Alemán is currently director of WIPO’s patent law division, while Piercechi serves as head of the Peruvian IP office INDECOPI.

The other two candidates are Kazakhstan’s Saule Tlevlessova, president of the Eurasian Patent Organization, and Edward Kwakwa from Ghana, legal counsel at WIPO.

WIPO’s Coordination Committee will nominate someone for the post at an extraordinary session held on March 4 and 5.

The committee’s nomination will then be sent to the WIPO General Assembly in May for final approval.

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20 February 2020   India and the US have signed a preliminary deal to strengthen IP rights, just a few days before a state visit by President Donald Trump, according to a senior Indian government official.
27 February 2020   A Chinese ambassador has returned fire against the US’ “attack” on China’s bid to lead the World Intellectual Property Organization.
4 March 2020   The World Intellectual Property Organization will today, March 4 begin the process of choosing a new director general to succeed Francis Gurry.