The TRIPS IP Waiver: Separating Fact & Fiction
The TRIPS IP Waiver, originally a proposal by India and South Africa to suspend the TRIPS Agreement to help them produce vaccines to fight COVID-19, has obscured some critical truths about the role of innovation and the impact a waiver would actually have. In spite of the rallying cry “Patents versus People,” the waiver, which has been mischaracterized by some as simply a “patent waiver” is not only about patents. The waiver would also include trade secrets and could lead to countries compel corporations to release the most sensitive trade secret information in order for access to markets. Furthermore, merely lifting TRIPS obligations would do nothing to address the current suffering of the world’s poorer populations, or spikes associated with unvaccinated populations. In fact, it would hamper efforts to secure global distribution of vaccines, as well as cause real harm in the long term by reallocating scarce vaccine resources to those without unsophisticated, regulated and safe manufacturing capabilities.
“I think that the waiver proposal is a dangerous proposal for many reasons. One, it is dangerous to innovation,” Andrei Iancu explained speaking at Innovating the Future: Celebrating 2021 World IP Day. “More importantly, the waiver imposes an immediate danger to widespread dissemination of the vaccine.”
“If you remove IP, companies are going to retreat into their trade secret shells and be less likely to collaborate,” Iancu explained. His culminating point related to his desire to make sure policies are adopted to ensure the world is prepared for the next pandemic. “If we waive IP rights, and exclude the original manufacturers, how are we going to control the quality of the vaccines that go into people’s arms? How are we going to control for the fake vaccines? Just last week we saw fake Pfizer vaccines,” Iancu said with emphasis. “The system is working well; we have already deployed 1 billion shots, by the end of May it will be 2 billion, by the end of the year it will be 9 to 10 billion shots, enough to vaccinate all adults around the world… the system is working, let it work for its intended purposes.”
This panel pick up the discussion started by our first panel, relating to America’s IP position in the world vis-a-vis the decision of the Biden Administration to support some form of TRIPS IP Waiver. The panel will also discuss these and other consequences of the Biden Administration decision to support the TRIPS IP Waiver for COVID-19 Vaccines, whether it will have any effect by the time the World Trade Organization implements the waiver, what damage will be done to companies already fighting the pandemic, as well as the damage to future incentive to fight worldwide pandemics. The panel will also discuss the broader IP landscape review where the U.S. ranked in 2021, and why, and discuss the current U.S. and global climate heading into the 2022 Chamber report and rankings.