Tang’s Appointment to WIPO Gives Hope for Global IP Rights

Property Rights Alliance congratulates Mr. Daren Tang, former head of Singapore’s Intellectual Property Agency, on his new role as the next Director-General of the World Intellectual Property Organization. As one of the specialized agencies of the UN, WIPO seeks “to promote the protection of intellectual property throughout the world.” With Mr. Tang promoting strong intellectual property protections and rights throughout Singapore, his appointment gives a strong push by WIPO to further their agenda of IP protections and a key development regarding IP rights globally.

As the former head of IPOS, Mr. Tang has experience doing just that. On the International Property Rights Index Singapore ranks fourth overall and 14th in IP protections. In fact, the Singapore office keeps close track of its IP ranking on the IPRI as well as other leading indices measuring indicators of innovation and access to IP rights. The IPOS has implemented many programs recently to catalyze the growth of IP rights and innovation. 

For example, the office recently inaugurated the world’s first trademark registration mobile app which reduces the time it takes to apply for a trademark from the previous hour-long average to less than 10 minutes. With the increased simplicity of filing for trademarks, the app also uses artificial intelligence technology to compare trademark filings and protect existing trademarks. Mr. Tang is committed to WIPO creating a “professional platform for IP offices to come together around the world” and “finding solutions to global challenges such as sustainable development, climate change, public health and access to information and knowledge.” 

Mr. Tang embarks on his new role during a global pandemic in which many questions have been raised recently regarding intellectual property rights and their role in accelerating innovation to bring about therapies, vaccines, diagnostics, and other needed medical supplies. Indeed, a few countries and activist groups have alleged property rights and markets hinder a global response. 

Access to a COVID-19 vaccine was one subject broached by China’s President Xi Jinping at the World Health Assembly this week. Xi stated China will make a vaccine a “global public good” indicating a desire to contribute to global manufacturing and distribution. However, at the same time the FBI is currently investigating China for hacking into U.S. labs producing vaccines and targeting U.S. firms and organizations conducting medical research on COVID-19. It will be important for Tang and world governments to ensure that the eradication of COVID-19 does not come as a result of theft. The illicit transfer of intellectual property is more likely to result in delays in manufacturing and substandard products that do more harm than good.

Instead, it is the private sector in countries that lead on IP protection spearheading results. The biotechnology industry association reports that the private sector is responsible for more than 90% of vaccines and therapeutics in development, and more than 70% of R&D is being undertaken by small companies. Of the 463 therapies in development more than 200 originate from U.S. based companies, which is 2nd in the world for IP protection on the International Property Rights Index. 

For more of the world’s brightest minds to contribute the answer is clear: more countries need to protect property rights. A sentiment shared by DG Tang who remarked in his acceptance speech “Ultimately, we need the people of each country to see a direct connection between IP as a legal right and their lives as innovators, creators, business owners, workers and consumers.” 

According to the IPRI, currently only 11 percent of the world people enjoy the strongest protections of IP rights. PRA looks forward to working with WIPO to expand this number and closing the IP gap. 



Image credit: Metatron