This week’s blog post was published by IP Progress partner, Property Rights Alliance. The original piece can be found here.
U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced in May that the United States would be supporting efforts by other countries to revoke the intellectual property rights of innovators that developed novel COVID-19 vaccines and other medical technologies.
Several countries have already signed on to support a proposal led by India and South Africa to “waive” large portions of the WTO’s Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement for COVID-19 vaccines and other medical supplies. The measure would strip pharmaceutical companies of their intellectual property rights and greenlight foreign firms to reproduce versions without licensing agreements or necessary know-how. Experts warn it would set back the world-class innovation ecosystem based in the United States for years to come.
The private enterprises that have spearheaded the research and development of the COVID-19 vaccines rely on patents to ensure not only that they are produced safely and reliably by manufacturers, but also to mitigate risk and eventually to collect revenue to fund future innovations, such as booster shots.
Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, says that negotiating the TRIPS waiver has already “poisoned the whole atmosphere,” as “what was one of the cornerstones of enticing companies to be involved is now not something they can rely on.”
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[Waiving the TRIPS agreement for COVID-19 vaccines] would strip pharmaceutical companies of their intellectual property rights… Experts warn it would set back the world-class innovation ecosystem based in the United States for years to come.