It was 1873 and the Austro-Hungarian Empire was about to organize the Vienna Universal Exhibition which, at the time was one of the main events worldwide. Suddenly the refusal of American and German inventors to attend, given the low level of protection offered by the country for their inventions, placed this great event in danger. The response of the country’s congress was immediate, and implied an improvement in the protection of its country’s inventions as well as foreign ones. This was the seed that culminated in the Paris Convention of 1883 and the creation of the “International Union for the Protection of Industrial Property”. Intellectual Property definitively broke out of national frontiers, which had been its natural space until then.
In order to administer the two main Industrial and Intellectual Property treaties of the times (the said Paris Convention and the Berne Convention of 1886) and promote new agreements in this field, a secretariat was created in Berne in 1893 (it was not transferred to Geneva until 1960). At first it was under the supervision of the Swiss government by means of what was known as “Bureaux Internatinaux reunis pour la protection de la propiete intellectuelle” (United International Bureau for the Protection of Intellectual Property, BIRPI).
The first acid test for its independence came when it signed a mutual agreement between equals with the League of Nations when the latter was created in 1920.
After the Second World War and, coinciding with the phenomenon of decolonization, some new countries joined the BIRPI and others did so as observers, many of which were, in fact, very critical about the way Industrial and Intellectual Property was being used in the international arena. At the beginning the UN (United Nations) promoted activities in conjunction with the BIRPI in order to verify the situation of Industrial and Intellectual Property. For its part, the Swiss government, conscious of the interest of the UN in this field and the anomaly implied by the BIRPI, which was not an international agency, tried to take steps in order to raise the status of the latter. But the importance of Industrial and Intellectual property on the international scene, the complaints from developing countries which did not see themselves being represented by the BIRPI and the UN’s interest in having its own organism specialized in the area, led to the BIRPI being transformed into the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization).
Five weeks of negotiations in the Swedish parliament in Stockholm led to the signature in 1967 of the WIPO convention and, on 26 April 1970 the BIRPI officially became the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization), the fourteenth specialized organism of the UN (1) and the first to be created since 1961. With this, Industrial and Intellectual Property was officially converted into “World Heritage”.
May, Christopher, 2009, “The Pre-History and Establishment of the WIPO”, The WIPO Journal
Francis Gurry, Director General of the WIPO 2010 “THE WIPO CONVENTION – LIFE BEGINS AT 40!” WIPO magazine 04 2010
(1) ILO, the International Labor Organization (ILO), Geneva
FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome
Unesco, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Paris
WHO, the World Health Organization, Geneva
IMF, the International Monetary Fund, Washington D.C.
ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Organization, Montreal
IMO, the International Maritime Organization, London