Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft

WIPO Conference on e-commerce



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.