Last fall, we wrote about claims that World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) director Francis Gurry was involved in some quite incredible practices in secretly obtaining DNA samples
from WIPO employees, to try to sniff out who had sent certain letters. This came after some other scandals involving ignoring UN sanctions (even though WIPO is an UN organization) against sending computers to both North Korea
Earlier this year, Gurry was re-nominated
for the position. Soon after that, it was reported that one of Gurry's top deputies, James Pooley, had filed a document accusing Gurry of misconduct
over the DNA situation and some other things. But what was really
crazy was that when patent blogger Gene Quinn posted a copy of Pooley's document along with his own analysis of it, WIPO's top lawyer threatened Quinn with criminal charges
for merely reporting on a document filed by a top WIPO official! Quinn, who was recovering from a medical procedure at the time and didn't want to deal with the hassle of a fight, decided to take down the post and the document.
Last week, the Register reposted the document along with an article
declaring it an "exclusive." That's a bit debatable, given that Quinn clearly had it before them (something the Register doesn't even bother to acknowledge). The Register also fails to acknowledge that the basics of the DNA scandal were known months ago. Still, it's good to see the document finally be brought to light, and we'll see if WIPO now goes after The Register like it did Quinn. We've also posted the document below.
The full report
goes beyond just the DNA scandal, to making a direct claim of corruption, concerning a non-competitive procurement process, that resulted in WIPO doing a deal with an Australian company run by an acquaintance of Gurry. According to Pooley's letter, the firm, Argo Pacific, run by Gurry's friend Paul Twomey, put in a bid that was much more expensive than others. Upon realizing this, Gurry directed the committee evaluating the proposals to change the evaluation formula, such that price was much less important, leading Argo to "win." Even then, Argo failed to beat the competition, so the letter alleges that Gurry totally removed the process from the competitive bidding system, and awarded it directly to Argo Pacific.
To be fair, none of this is proven -- though the stories of problems within WIPO have been around for a while. Furthermore, some have suggested that this is actually a coordinated attack to smear Gurry for not
being as willing to push US maximalist patent and copyright policies (and being more willing to listen to developing nations). Still, the allegations are certainly serious and should be investigated. The fact that WIPO has tried to completely stifle and censor a blogger discussing this filed report by a WIPO official with bogus threats of criminal
prosecution only make it that much more worthy of ensuring the situation is fully investigated. As I noted, when we last wrote about it, the attempt to intimidate, threaten and silence a blogger seems even more serious
than the other allegations against Gurry.
Meanwhile, The Register does have more details about what has happened since this complaint was submitted -- and it continues to raise questions about how WIPO is managed:
The US State Department and South Korean officials have both asked for an independent investigation into the allegations, but instead WIPO appointed its own committee to decide if further action was required. This committee was allegedly implicated in the original, secret DNA testing of senior staff.
In May this year WIPO's "Independent Advisory and Oversight Committee" (IAOC) considered whether there was a conflict of interest in handing the investigation to the organisation's own Internal Audit and Oversight Division (IAOD).
In early May, WIPO's legal counsel advised:
“The director of the IAOD deemed himself to have a conflict of interest, due to the fact that the Report refers to him (together with a number of other WIPO officials) in the DNA allegations. For this reason he recused himself from considering the report.”
But by the end of May, the IAOD, and its director Thierry Rajaobelina, apparently decided it was quite capable of carrying out a preliminary investigation without any fear of a conflict of interest.
Folks within WIPO are apparently not pleased with this and there has been continued back and forth over whether or not there will be a truly independent investigation of Gurry and his activities as it relates to the DNA samples.
No matter what, this is clearly an issue of public interest, and we certainly hope that WIPO will not stoop so low as to try to censor other members of the press, as it did with Quinn.