December 7, 2022


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Singaporean Daren Tang set to head UN intellectual property agency WIPO

SINGAPORE: Mr Daren Tang is set to be the new director general of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) after winning a vote in Geneva on Wednesday (Mar 4).

“This is the first time a Singaporean has been nominated for the leadership position of a UN Agency,” said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as he congratulated Mr Tang in a post on Facebook.

Mr Tang, the chief executive of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS), was among the six in the race for the top job.

The other candidates were from China, Colombia, Ghana, Kazakhstan and Peru.

He was voted in by WIPO’s coordination committee and the WIPO general assembly will make the final confirmation by early-May.

Set up in 1967, WIPO has 193 member states and oversees 26 international treaties related to the protection of intellectual property.

The current director general of WIPO, Australian Francis Gurry, has held the position from 2008, overseeing the organisation across two six-year terms. 

Under the leadership of Mr Gurry, WIPO has overseen an explosion in patent filings and has begun preliminary talks on whether artificial intelligence, or machines, can be inventors.

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) director general Francis Gurry, pictured on March

File photo of World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) director general Francis Gurry. (Photo: AFP)

His current term ends on Sep 30, after which Mr Tang is set to take over.


Mr Tang, 48, joined IPOS, a statutory board under the Ministry of Law, as the deputy chief executive in 2012 and became chief executive three years later.

Prior to that, he was a Senior State Counsel with the Attorney-General’s Chambers’ international affairs division from 2003 to 2012, where he was part of Singapore’s legal team in the dispute with Malaysia over the sovereignty of Pedra Branca.

Mr Tang was also involved in the United States-Singapore free trade agreement as lead negotiator and legal counsel, during his time at the Ministry of Trade and Industry between 2001 and 2003.

More recently, he led IP negotiations for Singapore in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, and the European Union-Singapore free trade agreement.

READ: Singapore nominates IPOS chief to head World Intellectual Property Organisation

The Singaporean also currently chairs the standing committee on copyright and related rights at WIPO.

This breadth of experience and familiarity with the WIPO community were attributes mentioned by Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan in his letter to WIPO’s coordination committee on Nov 6 to nominate Mr Tang.

“His international experience in bilateral and multilateral trade negotiations have delivered regional and international cooperation programmes that have benefited the IP community,” he wrote.

“With his understanding of how IP can be used to support socio-economic development and his ability to forge consensus, Mr Tang possesses the qualities to strengthen and further the good work of WIPO and its members.”

Under Mr Tang’s tenure, IPOS was transformed from “a regulator into an innovation agency with IP expertise and networks”, added Dr Balakrishnan – a point echoed by Ambassador-at-Large Tommy Koh.

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