Pressure is growing for a full investigation of accusations of improper conduct levelled at World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) director-general Francis Gurry by James Pooley, a deputy director general of the UN body. Among other things, Gurry is accused by Pooley of violating the human rights of WIPO employees whose DNA is said to have been collected without their permission and of suppressing evidence that this had occurred. Gurry has dismissed the charges as being without foundation, while WIPO legal counsel Edward Kwakwa threatened legal action and criminal prosecution against blogger Gene Quinn when he linked to Pooley’s Report of Misconduct, filed on April2 , in a piece on the widely-read IP Watchdog site.

Last week, Gurry was re-elected by WIPO member states to serve a second term as Director General. Immediately after the vote, a member of the South Korean delegation made a speech to the assembly asking for a transparent and independent investigation of the issues raised by Pooley. The Mission of the United States in Geneva subsequently issued a statement that called for the same thing and which concluded: “We expect this investigation to be implemented promptly and executed expeditiously.”

Meanwhile, in an article (registration required) published on the widely-read Foreign Policy website, an unnamed State Department spokesman commented: “We are aware of the complaints made by Mr Pooley, a senior WIPO official, and believe that such complaints must be treated seriously and transparently. In that regard, the United States believes that a full, independent, and external investigation of all complaints is warranted, and is in consultation with other member states towards that end.”

Some have speculated that Pooley’s allegations reflect disquiet in the US about technical assistance supplied by WIPO to Iran and North Korea. The organisation was criticised for providing computer equipment to both countries in apparent violation of UN-imposed sanctions. An independent report found no evidence of deliberate wrong-doing, but did identify a number of problematic issues. There have also been long-standing accusations against Gurry, always denied, in relation to the unauthorised collection of DNA belonging to WIPO staff members.

What seems clear, though, is that despite Gurry’s re-election, the stories are not going to go away. The Director General may come to believe that the transparent and independent investigation that the Koreans and Americans are calling for is the best way for him to set out his case and to refute the allegations that have dogged an otherwise highly successful period in charge of WIPO.  

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