The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

A Reference Guide

Elgar Practical Guides

Carolyn Deere Birkbeck

Written by a leading WIPO commentator, The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO): A Reference Guide is the first comprehensive reference book to illuminate the nuts and bolts of WIPO governance. This practical guide offers a unique insight into how WIPO is governed, described in clear, readily accessible terms for policymakers, scholars and stakeholders. The Guide reviews the origins of WIPO and sets out its current functions and activities, presenting a framework for analysing WIPO’s complex governance system. The text is accompanied by a number of valuable appendices, including key documents that have to date not been readily available to the public.

Chapter 5: WIPO’s decision-making structure, processes and practices

Carolyn Deere Birkbeck

Subjects: law - academic, intellectual property law


The World Intellectual Property Organization’s decision-making structure is often described as complex. In 2014, for instance, a UN Joint Inspection Unit report observed that WIPO has ‘one of the most complex governance structures’ in the UN system. This complexity arises in part from WIPO’s historical origins and evolution; most notably from the amalgamation of several existing treaty-based structures into WIPO and the progressive adding of new treaties. The World Intellectual Property Organization’s main decision-making organs coexist with the governing bodies of the Unions created by a number of WIPO-administered IP treaties, several of which date back to the late 19th century. Further, the main convention-based organs established by the WIPO Convention are complemented by several layers of subsidiary bodies also involved in decision-making and/or negotiations, including committees, expert committees established by treaty provisions, and working groups. Some of these bodies focus on governance matters (such as the Program and Budget Committee (PBC) and the Independent Advisory Oversight Committee (IAOC)), and others on more substantive and technical matters of IP. (Figure 5.1 presents a visual view of the WIPO’s decision-making structure, focusing on the composition and relationships of WIPO’s main decision-making organs, subsidiary bodies, and the governing bodies of a number of WIPO treaties.) Diplomatic conferences are further important components of WIPO’s governance system.

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