U.N. intellectual property chief to step down early

GENEVA (Reuters) - The head of the United Nations’ intellectual property watchdog will step down next year, a year early, after documents bearing a false birth date brought pressure on him to resign, diplomats said on Thursday.

Kamil Idris, head of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) for a decade, was found by internal auditors to have signed documents with a false birth date -- making him seem nine years older -- when he joined the agency 25 years ago.

The United States, European Union and other wealthy nations last month refused to approve WIPO’s new two-year budget in protest over a lack of a full and open debate on the Sudanese lawyer’s reported misconduct.

The United States welcomed Idris’s early departure as “a positive development.”

Idris, in an e-mail circulated to WIPO staff and obtained by Reuters, said: “I have decided to advance the process for nominating and appointing a director-general.”

Countries would be asked to nominate his replacement for a selection committee to review in May 2008, “for appointment by the (WIPO) General Assembly at its next session in September 2008,” he said.

Idris, who denies any wrongdoing, was re-appointed in 2003 for a six-year mandate that would have ended in November 2009.


His message to WIPO staff included an appeal for the agency’s member states to endorse its latest budget, which seeks a 12 percent increase in spending over the next two years.

“I personally urge all concerned in the best interest of the Organization to proceed soon with the formal approval of the 2008-2009 program budget,” he said.

“The member states and the employees of WIPO deserve to have an Organization that is led with the highest professional and ethical standards, and we believe that this renewal of leadership will bring new confidence and vitality to the Organization,” U.S. ambassador Warren Tichenor said in a statement.

Idris was first elected to WIPO’s top post in 1997. Diplomats said last year’s audit questioned whether he could have had the 10 years of senior experience required for the post he applied for in 1982, given his real age at the time.

WIPO is mandated to protect adherence to intellectual property rules, trademarks and patents. Unlike other U.N. agencies, the 184-state body is largely self-financing through its patents’ fees.

Former World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz was forced to resign last June amid an ethics scandal involving a high-paying promotion for his companion.

Editing by Stephanie Nebehay