The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
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The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

A Reference Guide

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.
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Chapter 2: What is WIPO and what does it do?

Carolyn Deere Birkbeck


The origins of WIPO date back to the 1883 Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property and the 1886 Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, which together laid the foundations for contemporary international IP regulation. Both conventions provided for the establishment of an ‘International Bureau’ to provide administrative support to the Unions formed by their respective States Parties. The two bureaux combined in 1893 to create the United International Bureaux for the Protection of Intellectual Property (usually referred to by its French acronym, BIRPI). With the conclusion of further conventions on specialized aspects of IP (such as on trademarks, industrial designs and appellations of origin), the Unions created by several of these treaties were also integrated into BIRPI (that is, the Madrid, Hague, Nice, and Lisbon Unions). Following the entry into force of the 1967 Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization (the WIPO Convention), BIRPI was replaced by WIPO in 1970 (for the text of the Convention, see Appendix 1). As an ‘umbrella organisation’, WIPO ‘federated the Unions dealing with intellectual property issues into an expanded international organization.’ In 1974, WIPO became a Specialized Agency of the UN system (see Appendix 2).

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