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The Biden Administration Must Support American Innovators

The Big Picture

The United States made history by developing a COVID-19 vaccine in record time under Operation Warp Speed. Many health experts and media pundits did not believe that we would be on track to vaccinating the majority of Americans by this time today. We can point to many things that contributed to our success, but chief among them, are the strong intellectual property rights protections that allowed for the swift development of the vaccine.

Now, India and South Africa, supported by Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, are mounting a campaign to get access to the COVID-19 vaccine formula, which would only hurt the same American innovators who helped develop the vaccine in the first place.

The Details

  • The United States is a signatory to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

  • The agreement, among other things, protects intellectual property rights for the COVID-19 vaccine and related products.

  • India, South Africa and dozens of countries are proposing that IP protections be waived under TRIPS so that “least developed countries” can have access to the vaccine formula for manufacturing.

Why It matters

The United States led the way in vaccine development. The Biden Administration should maintain the same position as the Trump Administration and oppose this waiver at the WTO. The risks associated with giving away our vaccine formula are severe. Not only will it hinder the ability of medical innovators to act quickly in response to a future pandemic, but it will also limit the ability of property rights holders to ensure quality control of their product. To make matters worse, China - a worldwide leader in IP theft - is actively looking for ways to exploit our computer systems to gain access to valuable COVID-19 data. According to the Department of Justice, two Chinese hackers working with China's Ministry of State Security were charged with hacking into businesses producing the COVID-19 vaccine and related products in an attempt to steal critical intellectual property. This IP waiver is China's easy-way to access our vaccine formula and American innovators should not be at risk of having their intellectual property be taken by Beijing through this unprecedented waiver.

With our country nearing the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with President Biden pledging $4 billion for COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access, it would be dangerous and unwise for the Biden Administration to support this waiver at the WTO.