The top American official at the United Nations’ World Intellectual Property Organization has accused its Director General, Francis Gurry, of “serious misconduct” and “violations of national and international law” in connection with a bizarre series of alleged 2008 burglaries of staffers’ offices to obtain samples of their DNA.
The official, James Pooley, is one of Gurry’s four top deputies, and also a highly regarded U.S. patent lawyer, who was nominated for his WIPO job by the Obama Administration in 2009.
Pooley himself is head of the Innovation and Technology branch of WIPO, which administers the international Patent Cooperation Treaty, and which offers patent protection and garners tens of millions in fees annually for providing access to patents in 148 countries.
The accusations he has formally brought forward to WIPO’s member states are not new: they have been put forward by other former WIPO staffers in tribunals that consider internal U.N. justice matters, but no one of Pooley’s rank has done so.
Pooley, in a “Report of Misconduct,” filed Wednesday with the legislative branches of the Geneva-based organization known as WIPO and also sent to the U.S. Mission in Geneva, calls for WIPO’s member states to “demand immediate answers and explanations from Mr. Gurry” about the charges, and suspend him from duty pending an independent investigation if he fails to comply.
Through his attorney, Pooley declined an interview request from Fox News, “on account of his duty of confidentiality as a staff member of WIPO.”
For his part, Gurry told Fox News, “The allegations are without foundation and I have no further comment.” But he has previously stated that “I have not seen any allegation that is substantiated. Every single allegation is a repetition of a previous allegation that is being made.”
Pooley’s accusations, obtained by Fox News, are just the latest eruption of controversy at WIPO, a low-profile U.N. “specialized agency” that is gatekeeper for international protection of, and access to, the huge trove of largely Western-originated patents and other forms of intellectual property that are the centerpiece of the 21st Century economy.
Few countries have a bigger stake in WIPO’s welfare than the U.S., which is by far the largest filer of international patents under the treaties administered by the organization.
Much of WIPO’s spate of controversy has had to do with the autocratic Gurry, an Australian who was recently re-selected by WIPO’s 83-nation Coordinating Committee for a second term starting in October. The decision must still be ratified by the 187 members of WIPOs General Assembly in May.
That ratification is still considered likely.
Gurry has already survived several fierce international storms in the past two years, mostly to do with his penchant for taking controversial actions without informing the countries that make up WIPO’s membership.
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