Uncle Sam breathes sigh of relief as Singaporean hopeful thrashes China's candidate in vote to elect new WIPO boss

Fresh start for 'FIFA of UN agencies'?


The current head of Singapore's intellectual property authority, Daren Tang, has won the race to become Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Tang gained 55 votes versus 28 for Chinese candidate Binying Wang.

The vote by 83 United Nations member states was held behind closed doors and involved six candidates and two rounds of voting. The Kazakh candidate withdrew before the first vote and Peru's was removed after coming last in the first vote. Colombia and Ghana also withdrew before the second vote, leaving just China and Singapore in the running.

Tang's candidacy must now be rubber-stamped by a vote of the WIPO General Assembly, which will meet 7-8 May.

The US-trained lawyer started working at the Singapore office in 2012 and has led it since 2015. Before that he was a senior counsel for the Singaporean Attorney-General's international affairs division.

The US State Department, which has been vocal in opposing China's bid to lead the organisation, welcomed the news.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo congratulated Tang on winning the vote, describing him as "a vocal proponent of transparency and institutional integrity, and a leader who can unify WIPO member states by forging consensus on difficult issues".

Tang replaces two-term leader Francis Gurry. His leadership of the patent and domain name regulator has been controversial to say the least.

While WIPO has all the privileges of a UN agency – immunity from investigation, prosecution and tax – it also enjoys a certain freedom from oversight because it is largely funded by company contributions rather than relying on funding from member states.

Gurry was accused of illegally DNA testing senior staff in an attempt to find out who had been sending anonymous letters of complaint accusing him of sexual harassment and financial impropriety. WIPO security goons removed items from staff offices for testing and lifted their diplomatic immunity to allow Swiss police to test them too. No matches were found.

Gurry was also accused of improperly interfering in a procurement process in order to favour a long-time acquaintance. When this did not work, Gurry simply cancelled the standard process and handed the contract to his friend.

The Reg revealed that an investigation by the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight into the agency found Gurry guilty of fiddling with the IT procurement process but no substantive action was taken.

The oversight office's report stated: "Although there are strong indications that Mr Gurry had a direct interest in the outcome of the DNA analysis, there is no evidence that he was involved in the taking of the DNA samples."

The report was not released, even to UN diplomats. Instead, ambassadors had to book a two-hour appointment to read the 1,000 pages at WIPO's offices. Mobile phones had to be surrendered, a non-disclosure agreement signed and ambassadors were not even permitted to take notes.

James Pooley, deputy director of WIPO, and senior adviser Miranda Brown took their concerns to the US House Foreign Affairs Committee where congressman Brad Sherman described WIPO as "the FIFA of UN agencies".

Back in 2015, several congressmen wrote to then Secretary of State John Kerry in a bid to clean up what they saw as a toxic environment at the UN agency.

Gurry took action against perceived enemies – head of the staff council Moncef Kateb and whistleblower IT director Wei Lei. Both were sacked.

Kateb was the first whistleblower who alerted authorities that the WIPO boss was providing IT equipment to Iran and North Korea in apparent breach of UN Security Council embargoes. WIPO's external review (PDF) cleared it of any wrongdoing, although it did agree to new policies on technology transfers in future.

Gurry remains in post until 30 September. ®


Other stories you might like

  • It's 2022 and there are still malware-laden PDFs in emails exploiting bugs from 2017
    Crafty file names, encrypted malicious code, Office flaws – ah, it's like the Before Times

    HP's cybersecurity folks have uncovered an email campaign that ticks all the boxes: messages with a PDF attached that embeds a Word document that upon opening infects the victim's Windows PC with malware by exploiting a four-year-old code-execution vulnerability in Microsoft Office.

    Booby-trapping a PDF with a malicious Word document goes against the norm of the past 10 years, according to the HP Wolf Security researchers. For a decade, miscreants have preferred Office file formats, such as Word and Excel, to deliver malicious code rather than PDFs, as users are more used to getting and opening .docx and .xlsx files. About 45 percent of malware stopped by HP's threat intelligence team in the first quarter of the year leveraged Office formats.

    "The reasons are clear: users are familiar with these file types, the applications used to open them are ubiquitous, and they are suited to social engineering lures," Patrick Schläpfer, malware analyst at HP, explained in a write-up, adding that in this latest campaign, "the malware arrived in a PDF document – a format attackers less commonly use to infect PCs."

    Continue reading
  • New audio server Pipewire coming to next version of Ubuntu
    What does that mean? Better latency and a replacement for PulseAudio

    The next release of Ubuntu, version 22.10 and codenamed Kinetic Kudu, will switch audio servers to the relatively new PipeWire.

    Don't panic. As J M Barrie said: "All of this has happened before, and it will all happen again." Fedora switched to PipeWire in version 34, over a year ago now. Users who aren't pro-level creators or editors of sound and music on Ubuntu may not notice the planned change.

    Currently, most editions of Ubuntu use the PulseAudio server, which it adopted in version 8.04 Hardy Heron, the company's second LTS release. (The Ubuntu Studio edition uses JACK instead.) Fedora 8 also switched to PulseAudio. Before PulseAudio became the standard, many distros used ESD, the Enlightened Sound Daemon, which came out of the Enlightenment project, best known for its desktop.

    Continue reading
  • VMware claims 'bare-metal' performance on virtualized GPUs
    Is... is that why Broadcom wants to buy it?

    The future of high-performance computing will be virtualized, VMware's Uday Kurkure has told The Register.

    Kurkure, the lead engineer for VMware's performance engineering team, has spent the past five years working on ways to virtualize machine-learning workloads running on accelerators. Earlier this month his team reported "near or better than bare-metal performance" for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT) and Mask R-CNN — two popular machine-learning workloads — running on virtualized GPUs (vGPU) connected using Nvidia's NVLink interconnect.

    NVLink enables compute and memory resources to be shared across up to four GPUs over a high-bandwidth mesh fabric operating at 6.25GB/s per lane compared to PCIe 4.0's 2.5GB/s. The interconnect enabled Kurkure's team to pool 160GB of GPU memory from the Dell PowerEdge system's four 40GB Nvidia A100 SXM GPUs.

    Continue reading
  • Nvidia promises annual updates across CPU, GPU, and DPU lines
    Arm one year, x86 the next, and always faster than a certain chip shop that still can't ship even one standalone GPU

    Computex Nvidia's push deeper into enterprise computing will see its practice of introducing a new GPU architecture every two years brought to its CPUs and data processing units (DPUs, aka SmartNICs).

    Speaking on the company's pre-recorded keynote released to coincide with the Computex exhibition in Taiwan this week, senior vice president for hardware engineering Brian Kelleher spoke of the company's "reputation for unmatched execution on silicon." That's language that needs to be considered in the context of Intel, an Nvidia rival, again delaying a planned entry to the discrete GPU market.

    "We will extend our execution excellence and give each of our chip architectures a two-year rhythm," Kelleher added.

    Continue reading
  • Amazon puts 'creepy' AI cameras in UK delivery vans
    Big Bezos is watching you

    Amazon is reportedly installing AI-powered cameras in delivery vans to keep tabs on its drivers in the UK.

    The technology was first deployed, with numerous errors that reportedly denied drivers' bonuses after malfunctions, in the US. Last year, the internet giant produced a corporate video detailing how the cameras monitor drivers' driving behavior for safety reasons. The same system is now apparently being rolled out to vehicles in the UK. 

    Multiple camera lenses are placed under the front mirror. One is directed at the person behind the wheel, one is facing the road, and two are located on either side to provide a wider view. The cameras are monitored by software built by Netradyne, a computer-vision startup focused on driver safety. This code uses machine-learning algorithms to figure out what's going on in and around the vehicle.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022