WASHINGTON—Following today’s announcement that the Biden administration will support a proposal to waive international patent protections for COVID-19 related products and technology, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), the leading think tank for science and technology policy, released the following statement from ITIF Vice President of Global Innovation Policy Stephen Ezell:
The Biden administration’s announcement that it will support a World Trade Organization Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) petition to waive intellectual property (IP) rights on COVID-19-related products and technology represents a shortsighted and misguided effort to meaningfully impact the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.
IP rights have been indispensable to the development of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics to date; they have also further facilitated the 200+ voluntary licensing agreements that COVID-19 innovators have entered into with contract manufacturers worldwide to dramatically scale COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics manufacturing. Endorsing this waiver petition succumbs to the fundamental fallacy that IP rights represent any kind of significant barrier to access and manufacturing of the medicines needed to overcome this crisis.
While the Biden administration is to be commended for its commitment to helping other nations amidst this crisis, as ITIF has written, there are far better ways to do so rather than abrogating IP rights; some of these include significantly increasing U.S. contributions to COVAX, exporting excess vaccine supply from its stockpile, identifying supply chain bottlenecks, and investing more domestically to dramatically scale up U.S. biopharmaceutical manufacturing capacity of these medicines.