The World Trade Organization is considering a proposal from longstanding opponents of intellectual property to suspend IP protections for Covid-19 treatments, vaccines, and diagnostics.
These opponents claim that eliminating IP protections will expand worldwide access to Covid-19 vaccines. In reality, waiving IP protections won’t fix the problem, as supply chain bottlenecks, trade barriers, and logistical manufacturing challenges are the true obstacles to producing more vaccines.
And, as the Alliance for Trade Enforcement has stated previously, eliminating IP protections for Covid-19-related products will harm the ability to respond to both this pandemic and the next one by undermining the collaborative partnerships needed to increase production and the American innovators who worked tirelessly over the last year to develop these technologies.
At a time when the United States is striving to maintain technology leadership over foreign rivals, the waiver would set a dangerous precedent and jeopardize the development of future lifesaving technologies and treatments. As U.C. Berkeley Law Senior Fellow Mark Cohen puts it, “We would be delivering a competitive advantage to countries that are increasingly viewed as our adversaries, at taxpayer expense, when there are other ways of doing this.”
AFTE is not alone in its opposition of this proposal.
The European Union, the United Kingdom, Japan, and other countries all oppose the waiver. In fact, European Commission Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis stated in a letter to MEP Gianna Gancia that the proposal “would not help but rather hinder the efforts to ensure the widest distribution of Covid-19 vaccines” and that “the solutions to rapidly scale up the required manufacturing and distribution of vaccines at this stage can only be delivered through close public-private cooperation and intellectual property is a key element of this equation.”
Several experts from across the public health and public policy sectors — including Bill Gates, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, former USPTO Director Andrei Iancu, and Council on Foreign Relations Director of Global Health Tom Bollyky — also have come out against the proposal.
Josh Rogin, a political analyst and Washington Post columnist, details a good-faith argument against the proposal in his latest piece. As he says, “Vaccine equity is a real problem, but waiving intellectual property rights is not the solution.”