Oppose the TRIPS Waiver, Protect American Intellectual Property

Jack Radomski, Editor

On June 17, member states of the World Trade Organization (WTO) voted to remove intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines. The WTO is now considering expanding the reach of the waiver. The WTO, backed by the US, wants to increase vaccine and diagnostic production via this waiver.

Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) waiver covering COVID-19 vaccines is intended to expand access to vaccines across the world by waiving intellectual property rights. However, this waiver will not have its intended consequences.

Supporters of this act wrongly imply that intellectual property is a barrier to innovation and access in technology and medicine, when in reality it is one of its greatest catalysts. The discovery of new medicines and cures is in part driven by the incentive of a reward for the inventor’s work. Without patents, it would be impossible to claim a reward for work because there would be no way to claim an idea or product.

The Biden Administration is supportive of the expansion of this waiver. This could be detrimental to the entire U.S. healthcare system, including patients, if enacted. Instead of expanding on this restrictive waiver, the U.S. government should be bolstering intellectual property rights to encourage the research and creation of new cures and medicines.

Strong intellectual property rights encourage innovators to produce new medicines such as the COVID-19 vaccine. Without an incentive, researchers and scientists will not have a reason to create new cures and diagnostics.

Weak intellectual property rights also invites foreign governments such as China or Russia to steal American products and ideas. In a time when world powers are vying for technological supremacy, the Biden Administration wants to hand over American intellectual property on a silver platter to other countries.

The TRIPS waiver puts America one step closer to losing its technology edge. Innovation and research are hallmarks of American culture, but the Biden administration is attempting to hamstring the technology and medical industries.

The TRIPS waiver is a temporary solution to an ongoing and complex problem. Certain countries with developing economies have restricted access to the vaccine, and the TRIPS waiver attempts to remedy that issue. However, waiving intellectual property rights does not address the root cause of the lack of access and this will surely happen again with new cures and medicines.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Center has a different idea, one that provides a full solution. In a letter addressing the waiver, they stated a better solution is to strengthen intellectual property rights in developing economies in order for them to be able “to participate effectively as full stakeholders in the innovation ecosystem that delivered COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.”

Strengthening worldwide intellectual property laws instead of increasing dependency on outside help will support researchers and innovators across the world. Expanding the TRIPS waiver is a step backwards for global intellectual property policy and it hurts innovators.

The TRIPS waiver is a dangerous policy and its expansion would further curtail innovation of life-saving medicines while exposing American intellectual property to international powers such as China and Russia. The TRIPS waiver should be opposed.

Let’s adopt the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Center’s idea and work to provide developing countries with the tools they need to expand their intellectual property and innovation infrastructure. This is the best way forward to increase innovation into world-changing cures and medicines.

United States government officials and policymakers should support policies that bolster and support intellectual property rights for innovators and producers. This will expand the American and international economy and help patients across the world to get the cures they need to live.

Universities, including the University of Minnesota should support this as well. As a research institution, the University of Minnesota should be fighting for intellectual property rights and for the researchers that they employ. Universities like this are valuable research centers and should be prioritized through policy initiatives at the local, state, and national levels.

Providing a profit incentive for producers of medicines and drugs is an important part of policy and should be utilized by policymakers across all levels of government. The TRIPS waiver, and all policy that does not support intellectual property rights is dangerous and should be opposed at the national and international levels.