WIPO: Giving Computers For 'Patents' To North Korea And Iran Didn't Violate UN Sanctions… But We'll Stop Doing It
from the you-know,-just-because dept
I still think that one of the craziest stories of the year was the news that the World Intellectual Property Organization, WIPO, was caught defying UN sanctions (despite being a part of the UN) and giving computer systems to both North Korea and Iran — officially to help both set up a database of international patents. Of course, none of this makes any sense, considering that neither country has shown much, if any, interest in respecting foreign patents. However, both have shown quite a lot of interest in building nuclear bombs… for which they need computing power.
The whole thing should be seen as a massive scandal that calls into question the judgment of those at the top of WIPO — but it doesn’t seem to be fazing too many people. WIPO recently released a statement trying to play down the whole thing, while at the same time admitting that it was changing its policies and likely would stop handing computers over to such regimes based on promises that they’d be used to setup patent databases. In other words, while it won’t do it again, leadership there doesn’t seem particularly apologetic for its actions.
The provision of standard IT equipment to the IP offices of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Islamic Republic of Iran that occurred in the preceding years, within the context of the Organization’s business modernization program for IP Offices in developing countries, is being referred to the relevant UN Sanctions Committees for their information and guidance.
The initial steps are being undertaken for a full external and independent review of the technical assistance provided to countries subject to UN sanctions.
A new internal instruction has been issued ending any provision of IT hardware in any of WIPO’s technical assistance programs.
It still amazes me that anyone at WIPO thought this was a good idea. The fact that they still refuse to admit doing anything wrong suggests they don’t even realize how badly they were played by those governments.
Either way, WIPO boss Francis Gurry did an interview with IP-Watch where he continues to downplay the seriousness of the issue, and also says he doesn’t feel any compulsion to respond to the US’s stated concerns about the program. He says that they stopped sending the program because of some “ambiguity.”
“There’s a relatively small number of countries who benefit from hardware as opposed to our complete software package,” Gurry said. “And since certain member states perceive that there is some ambiguity in the use of standard IT equipment – printers, cartridges, PCs and servers – we think the only complete answer we can give because of their perception of ambiguity is to say, we no longer do that.”
“We can argue for hours and hours and hours about the legal interpretation, that it’s only a few PCs, and so on,” he said. “But if there’s lingering doubt, let’s eliminate it.”
Something about that statement reminds me of a particular Monty Python quote. Either way, it still seems like WIPO still doesn’t understand why its actions are being questioned here.