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.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 20th, 2012 @ 3:51pm

    That Monty Python quote seems quite fitting. WIPO are trying to wash hands and come out looking clean. The "lets forget the past legality-issues and look foreward to how it is no longer an issue." is quite an evasion. Even politicians should be able to see the blatant handwashing and start looking at the obviously needed consequences.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 20th, 2012 @ 4:01pm

    Curious just what specifically was sent to I and NK.

     

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Jul 20th, 2012 @ 4:19pm

      Re:

      Curious just what specifically was sent to I and NK.


      You could, you know, click on links. For example, our story on NK includes a document called "project document" which includes exactly what was sent.

      http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120404/12263218371/ip-above-all-else-wipo-defies-un-sanc tions-to-give-computers-to-north-korea.shtml

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jul 20th, 2012 @ 5:15pm

        Re: Re:

        Thank you. I had not read the earlier article, so I was unaware of the "project document".

        Just my view, but this seems to be much more of a "you ignored UN sanctions" matter than one involving what was actually shipped to each country.

        NK is in for a rude awakening when it runs out of toner for its LaserJet color printer, not to mention renewing its McAfee 5 seat subscription when the one year license expires, or when the UPS requires a new battery.

        Frankly, the H/W and S/W that was shipped could be useful for database purposes, but I do have to wonder if they are useful in any meaningful sense for weapons design, manufacture, and deployment.

        Importantly, I am not excusing in any way the by-passing of sanctions, but only wondering if what was actually provided is something more than a tempest in a teapot.

         

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    Mason Wheeler (profile), Jul 20th, 2012 @ 4:01pm

    I have to wonder...

    However, both have shown quite a lot of interest in building nuclear bombs... for which they need computing power.


    Do they really? The first nuclear bombs were built during the 1940s, and most nuclear bombs existing today were built during the Cold War. My modern laptop probably exceeds, or at least rivals, the sum total of all computing power available worldwide at the end of the Cold War, in a single computer!

    So when you think about it, by modern standards, it's not like you need all that much computing power to build a nuclear bomb. Just saying.

     

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    phlynhi (profile), Jul 20th, 2012 @ 4:10pm

    Phasers set to stun

    Not to be a nit, but I believe that "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 phasing too many people," might be better written as "...FAZING too many people."
    I would normally overlook this error unfazed, but, alas, cannot... :-)
    Just sayin'...

     

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    mrbfd, Jul 20th, 2012 @ 4:11pm

    WIPO needs to go

    There is a "phasing" in that article that should probably be "fazing."  As in "UN douchebags remain unfazed and unrepentant."

    Also the quote mark after "we no longer do that" may be superfluous.

    Picky, picky, picky, c'est moi.

     

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      TtfnJohn (profile), Jul 20th, 2012 @ 6:42pm

      Re: WIPO needs to go

      What do you expect from Mike near quitting time of Friday. All of us shut down the grey matter around 2, the inner spell checker around 4 and all knowledge gained about grammar since the end of Grade 2 by 4:10

      That includes myself and most of the posters here who aren't AC's, they turn all that on at 6:00am, boot up the computer and by the time the Windows login screen comes on and they've signed in and waited for everything to load they can safely turn it off again by 6:04am and it stays off till 11am when they go to bed, congratulate themselves on a productive day and slip into dreamland. :)

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 20th, 2012 @ 4:26pm

    "However, both have shown quite a lot of interest in building nuclear bombs... "

    NK have built one, which I guess could be called a lot of interest in doing so if someone is being bizarrely vague.

    Iran, have stated clearly they are not building one and key US figures and agencies have also stated that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons programme and is not trying to get nuclear weapons (e.g. http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/01/09/panetta-admits-iran-not-developing-nukes/ ), which is somewhat less than a lot of interest, somewhat less than some interest, in fact, it'd more commonly be defined as having no interest.
    Iran is trying to do something, that it is utterly entitled to do under the terms of the NPT, (which they are signatories to and abide by, unlike several other countries who are not classed as enemies of the U.S.) which is to develop nuclear power.

     

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      Mason Wheeler (profile), Jul 20th, 2012 @ 4:32pm

      Re:

      I'm sorry, but does anyone really believe that?

      Iran *says* they want nuclear power so they can produce energy for their country without oil, but if that's what they really wanted... they live in the middle of a desert! There's hardly a better place in the world for producing solar power, which with modern technology could provide them with more energy than they need, and would be less expensive (and far less suspicious) than building nuclear reactors.

      And it's not like they've never "stated clearly" something that turned out to be an outright lie, now have they? If they were really on the up-and-up about it, they wouldn't be developing their nuclear program in so much secrecy and trying to build part of it under a mountain where no one can get at it.

      Sorry, but no. It's obvious what they're up to, and there's nothing legitimate about it.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jul 20th, 2012 @ 6:25pm

        Re: Re:

        Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. I'm sure you believed that too.

         

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          Mason Wheeler, Jul 20th, 2012 @ 8:55pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Of course I did. Everyone did, on both sides of the political spectrum, for various reasons, including the simple fact that Hussein had already used them more than once. On his own people, even.

          But a funny thing happened when we started making a big, loud political issue out of it. Hussein thought they were in for a repeat of the previous Gulf War, where we marched in, stomped around for a while, and left again. And since his WMDs were the justification for the war, he shipped them off to Syria to hide them until we were gone. That didn't quite work out as planned, but check out some of the news coming out of Syria lately...

          Meanwhile, when making the people who had said that the WMDs were in Iraq turn out to be wrong (nevermind the fact that everyone on both sides was saying it; let's ignore inconvenient bits of actual history and assume it was just Republicans) became more important than the truth, news organizations whose duty it was to report the truth started ignoring actual discoveries of WMDs and WMD-production facilities, some of them highly sophisticated, in Iraq. Yes, they did exist, and we found them. Not very many (because most of it was shipped off to Syria to hide it from us) but they did exist. The media just didn't report it because it doesn't fit the agenda they wanted to push on us.

          Please, next time take the time and effort to learn about history before trying to use it to mock people with.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2012 @ 4:30pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "Of course I did. Everyone did.."

            No, very few people did.
            Millions if you recall marched against the illegal invasion of Iraq.

            The Whitehouse had to cherry pick words and phrases from actual intelligence reports which taken as a whole did not support any claim from there being WMD or the manufacture of WMD happening in Iraq, to try to make the claims.

            If you recall they started off claiming that they had information, but everything checkable they ever claimed was proven false before the invasion.

            By the time they invaded, they stopped being so sure they knew anything and suddenly Iraq was a very big place, the size of Texas.


            "And since his WMDs were the justification for the war, he shipped them off to Syria to hide them until we were gone."

            Yes, because that's what you do with your best defence against an invasion, you hide it in another country where you can't use it because you're being invaded.
            As fictions go, that's got to be amongst the most pathetic lies ever told.


            "(nevermind the fact that everyone on both sides was saying it; let's ignore inconvenient bits of actual history and assume it was just Republicans)"

            Look, try to understand, I know to a very dull, unimaginative person with little experience of actual politics you may simply believe that your country is polarised politically, but the rest of the world doesn't really recognise a vast difference between your *ahem* "political spectrum"

            Certainly internationally, about the only difference between your Democrat administrations and your Republican ones is that the Democrats tend to be a little bit more polite in their speech. Murderous and illegal international behaviour is the norm of U.S. policy regardless of who is in the Whitehouse, the Congress or the Senate.


            "news organizations whose duty it was to report the truth started ignoring actual discoveries of WMDs and WMD-production facilities, some of them highly sophisticated, in Iraq"
            "The media just didn't report it because it doesn't fit the agenda they wanted to push on us."

            More fiction.

            Look, even if the US had any credibility on Iraq after the invasion (and it doesn't) then they had the perfect opportunity to claim what you "believe" was found in the report from their own "weapons inspectors"
            And even they didn't bother.


            "Please, next time take the time and effort to learn about history before trying to use it to mock people with."

            Oh, dear. Such confident ignorance.

             

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          Wally (profile), Jul 21st, 2012 @ 2:25pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          The reasons behind thinking there were Weapons of Mass Destruction was because Sadam Husein denied UN investigators entry to the country. The denial isn't a problem except he was acting like he was hiding something. We invade and later find there was a regime that was computable to the behaviors of a totalitarian state. You should have seen some of the footage we had found of the horrendous atrocities committed by the Bathe (pronounced Bath) party. The man was like Hitler was to Jews...to his own people.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2012 @ 4:18pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "The reasons behind thinking there were Weapons of Mass Destruction was because Sadam Husein denied UN investigators entry to the country."

            Context is everything, there had been UN investigators in the country. Clinton had them withdrawn so he could bomb Baghdad in 1998, at that point the weapons inspectors were actually pretty sure that there were no further WMD to find and had been pretty sure of that for about 2 years by 98.
            Unsurprisingly, given this fact
            and the fact that Iraq had no WMD at that point nor the means to make any
            and the fact that the US had been using members of the inspection team as spies to pass information on the third party countries, Saddam refused to have them back in.

             

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        Anonymous Coward, Jul 20th, 2012 @ 7:27pm

        Re: Re:

        "And it's not like they've never "stated clearly" something that turned out to be an outright lie, now have they? "

        Ahem, but the country most famous for outright lies, is the U.S., it used to be the U.S.S.R. but they went away and now it's the good ol' U Ess of A.

        Might Iran someday get a nuclear weapon, like Israel, India, Pakistan, North Korea et al., who knows, maybe.
        But as things stand, they are doing nothing that they are not entitled to do, whether you like it or not.
        They are abiding by the terms of the NPT, which of course, the original nuclear nation does not.
        The US has a pretty long history of sticking to treaty agreements for nearly as long as it takes the ink to dry on them, so I guess it's not surprising that they expect everyone else to treat them in the same way.
        But really, that's your own baggage.

         

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          Wally (profile), Jul 21st, 2012 @ 2:41pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Right....a cesium-based nuclear power plant in the middle of the Iranian desert where there is virtually no water to slow the reaction down...yup, not suspicious at all.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2012 @ 4:33pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Whether you, whoever you may be, think it is suspicious or not is irrelevant.
            They are signatories to the NPT and are not just allowed under it's terms to do what they are doing, they are entitled to do so.

             

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      Wally (profile), Jul 21st, 2012 @ 5:15pm

      Re:

      North Korea may have had one, but take it from my aunt in the army stationed in South Korea....."They lack the capability of setting it off or getting it to a distance. I saw the test rocket go up and down crashing into the ground."

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 20th, 2012 @ 4:32pm

    I'm sure Iran and North Korea are just going to use the computers to study horticulture. They probably want to know how to grow mushroom clouds, that's all.

     

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    abc gum, Jul 20th, 2012 @ 6:18pm

    Does this make WIPO a terrorist org?
    Just asking a question ....

     

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      TtfnJohn (profile), Jul 20th, 2012 @ 6:50pm

      Re:

      No, it makes them another clueless UN agency or commission kinda like the UN Human Rights Commission who clug Gadhafi to their warm, fat bosum for about 12 years as everyone else looked on in dumbfounded amazement.

      And the same commission that even beat Amnesty International to the microphones to denounce Gadhafi's death as a violation of his human rights, even if it was by mere nanoseconds.

      Both organizations silent, most importantly Amnesty, as Gadhafi tortured, murdered, raped and pillaged his own population at will.

      I've long been getting more and more convinced that Amnesty International has been for sale to the most heinous of dictators for the right price. The more that kind of crap goes on the more convinced I become of it.

       

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      That Anonymous Coward (profile), Jul 20th, 2012 @ 8:21pm

      Re:

      No it means that the high court, low court treatment has spread to the UN.
      If your for locking away ideas and culture laws need not apply to you, even if the results of what your doing can have disastrous effects to the rest of the world.
      Screw the little people, we've got ideas to protect!

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 20th, 2012 @ 11:46pm

    WIPO is loving this ttention! Anything to be in th news and centre of attention. Apparently the new culture over there is one of celebrity spotlight at whatever cost, greed, huge egos to mismanage the orgs funds, cronyism, increidible acts of discrimination, harrasment, and the list is long, very long. The Foreign Committee's letter to the DG was spot on. The arrogance of the DG is in question: see the ip-watch article that link to the letter.

     

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    Wally (profile), Jul 20th, 2012 @ 11:49pm

    Conversation Between WIPO and North Korea

    WIPO: We want you to stop infringing on trademarks and coppyrights.

    North Korea: Ok, is there a database we could use?

    WIPO: We can sell you these computers so you can store that information.

    North Korea(sniggering): Oh. Thank you much. We need this database.

    North Korea: *reformats hard disk*

     

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    Thomas (profile), Jul 21st, 2012 @ 1:42pm

    It's simply greed

    they want the money, North Korea and Iran pay them. so they get whatever they want that the WIPO can get their hands on. They would probably be willing to sell equipment to help make and use biological warfare too. Greed always trumps laws. corporations will sell anything to anyone if they can make money and get away with it. The corporations know full well that the executives will never be prosecuted, so they don't worry about the laws.

     

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