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[FYI] WIPO Conference on e-commerce


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The multi-billion dollar electronic commerce industry will be the 
focus of attention of some 700 delegates at a major international 
conference in Geneva from 14 to 16 September 1999. The International 
Conference on Electronic Commerce and Intellectual Property, hosted 
by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), will for the 
first time at an international level address the global implications 
of electronic commerce, with a focus on intellectual property.  

The Conference will be opened by Dr. Kamil Idris, Director General of 
WIPO, on September 14, 1999. He will be followed by the keynote 
speaker, US Secretary of Commerce William Daley.  

WIPO has convened the meeting to promote a better understanding of 
the issues involved in electronic commerce and to focus attention on 
the effects of electronic commerce on intellectual property – and of 
intellectual property on electronic commerce. Intellectual property 
rights are of central importance in maintaining a stable and positive 
environment for the development of electronic commerce, which is 
rapidly and fundamentally changing the way business is being 
conducted, in ways previously unforeseen.  

In the digital age, the products that are being traded are 
increasingly intangible – invisible in the ‘real’ world and existing 
only in the electronic bits and bytes in which they are transmitted 
across the computer networks - and most of these intangible products 
and the value they represent are protected as intellectual property. 
The intellectual property system is essential to create an 
environment in which rights in intellectual property are respected at 
a global level, and is therefore of vital importance for 
technological and social progress in the new millennium.  

As the United Nations agency responsible for promoting the protection 
of intellectual property through international cooperation, and given 
the complexity and enormous interest in the subject, WIPO wants to 
include the broadest range of opinions in the effort to define the 
issues that need to be addressed at an international level.  

"We are bringing together key players from this rapidly expanding 
industry as well as intellectual property experts from around the 
world to offer an unprecedented opportunity to exchange views," said 
Dr. Idris on the eve of the Conference. "As an international 
organization with a unique focus and direct and established links to 
governments, as well as to the private sector and industry worldwide, 
we can provide a unique forum to address pressing and economically 
significant issues in an international setting," he added.  

Dr. Idris said "WIPO, an organization that is geared to address 
global issues, has an established mandate and expertise in 
intellectual property. The rapidly changing digital environment 
requires prompt and careful responses at an international level. We 
are able to provide that forum." The Internet by its nature is a 
global and borderless medium, with the result that national laws can 
only have limited application and efficacy. These issues are arising 
at the international level at the same time, or before, they are 
addressed at a national level.  

Electronic commerce also poses a number of challenges to developing 
countries, but also many opportunities. For instance, forecasts show 
that by 2005, Asia-Pacific Internet users would exceed some 375 
million and China would surpass the United States to have the most 
users of the world. The entry barriers for electronic commerce are 
low. This presents immense opportunities for developing countries as 
they can avoid the heavy investment required to build an industrial 
technology infrastructure.  

The Conference offers a variety and unique combination of speakers, 
ranging from government ministers and policy-makers to top executives 
of industry worldwide as well as senior representatives of public 
interest groups and non-governmental organizations. From a 
technological angle, the WIPO Conference brings together global 
industry leaders, who will hint at the direction of technologies 
underlying electronic commerce - and at some future developments that 
may revolutionize global commerce and trade in intellectual property. 


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