In a letter to the Biden administration, Americans for Tax Reform and 40 other conservative, free market, and libertarian groups and activists expressed opposition to the proposal before the World Trade Organization (WTO) to undermine intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines.
The United States is a world leader in research and development because our system of healthcare encourages innovation and strongly protects property rights. As a result, a majority of new medicines are developed and launched in America.
Strong intellectual property rights are essential to ensure manufacturers have the resources to invest in the next generation of cures, are incentivized to innovate, and ensure medicines are safe and effective. Without strong protections, manufacturers and businesses have little incentive to invest the time and resources necessary to innovate.
As the letter notes, the proposed waiver would undermine the development of vaccines and treatments for future deadly pandemics:
“Developing new medicines is a costly, risky, and time-consuming process. A manufacturer must invest an average of $2.6 billion and ten years in research and development, according to the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development. In all, just 10 to 20 percent of medicines that begin clinical trials are approved.
Strong IP rights are key toward ensuring manufacturers are incentivized to innovate, ensure medicines are safe and effective, and have the resources to invest in the next generation of cures. Without protections, highly effective COVID-19 vaccines would not have been completed or distributed as quickly as they were. Allowing the seizure of IP through a TRIPS waiver would undermine this system of medical innovation.”
The letter also notes that this proposal will help America’s geopolitical rivals including Communist China and Russia:
“If approved, the proposal would allow foreign countries to immediately seize patents and clinical data of American businesses in order to attempt to produce COVID-19 vaccines. This would give foreign countries access to sensitive and valuable proprietary information belonging to American businesses.”
Finally, the letter notes that the proposal would harm American competitiveness and workers. According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), IP-intensive industries accounted for $7.8 trillion in GDP in 2019, or 41 percent of the economy. These industries accounted for 47.2 million jobs, or 33 percent of total U.S. employment. This proposal would undermine these industries and the economic benefit they provide.
The proposal would undermine the development of the next generation of treatments, help America’s geopolitical rivals like Communist China at the expense of American businesses and workers, and is unnecessary given the strong global supply of COVID-19 vaccines.