IP Commission: Cut Off WHO Funding If It Doesn't Make IP Protection Priority One

from the if-you-haven't-got-your-<strike>health</strike>-IP,-you-haven't-got-anyt dept

The IP Commission Report on the “theft” of American IP is the gift that keeps on taking. We’ve already discussed the commission’s suggestion that infringers’ computers be loaded up with spyware and malware and the apparent “fact” that China has singlehandendly destroyed every IP-reliant industry in America.

Hidden towards the bottom of the report is (yet another) terrible proposal, guided by the heavy hand of self-interest. It plainly spells out the commission’s priorities: American IP above all else, even the health and well-being of other nations.

Recommend to Congress and the administration that U.S. funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) program budget in whole or in part be withheld until (1) the WHO’s process of certifying national regulatory agencies includes attestation that IP protection is an essential part of the regulatory evaluation process, and (2) the WHO refrains from prequalifying any product until the regulating agency of jurisdiction demonstrates and certifies that it does not violate IP rights

The U.S. government has leverage at the WHO chiefly because of its financial support, which consists of annual “means tested” contributions to the WHO’s program budget and “voluntary” contributions whose total value is about $350 million. This support from the United States can be a carrot or a stick to influence the WHO’s actions.

So, if the WHO puts health ahead of American IP holders, the US should just cut off its contributions to the organization, and indirectly, the countries it assists. One would think that the “regulatory evaluation process” would be primarily concerned with ensuring new drugs and medical technology do more good than harm, healthwise. The possibility of IP infringement probably doesn’t even cross the radar of the WHO. That job belongs to other agencies.

But the commission ties IP enforcement and worldwide health together, forcing one to rely on the other by linking US monetary contributions to protection of American IP. The WHO would now be required to make sure rights holders aren’t being cut out of a market before attempting to solve larger problems — like halting an outbreak before it becomes an epidemic.

The commission also suggests the US solicit a little help with its low-level IP extortion by asking for other affected countries (affected by IP theft — not widespread health issues) to follow its lead in chaining contributions to IP enforcement.

Multilateral coordination may also be possible. For example, the IP of Japanese-developed medicine is frequently stolen, and Japan’s current annual and voluntary contributions to the WHO total over $70 million.

With enough support, maybe the commission can force the WHO to properly reflect its new priorities by dropping the “H” (which is of secondary concern) and replace it with “IP” (job #1). WIPO!

The commission “recommends” this course of action but can’t “endorse” it quite yet, possibly because it will make everyone involved look like a bunch of greedy meatbags who value their profits over the health of the developing world. (Heavily paraphrased — here’s the original.)

The Commission believes this recommendation has strong promise but is not ready to endorse it. To be acted upon, this recommendation requires careful assessment of the likely impacts and the potential for unintended consequences. It will be essential to ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable across the world continue to have access to life-saving, high-quality health interventions, now and in the future. In fact, IP protections are vital to that outcome, because they preserve incentives for innovation and foster predictable markets for manufacturers.

In other words, we like it but we can’t endorse until we can mitigate the unintended consequences (one of which was listed earlier). The poorest and most vulnerable across the world should still have access to lifesaving medicine and technology, pending licensing approval and WHO due diligence. (The last sentence in the Commission’s bet-hedging paragraph is simply wishful thinking — the kind that gets copyright extended and bad legislation crafted.)

Threatening to yank WHO funding screws up the organization’s priorities. The funding should be contingent on the WHO providing the best possible health assistance it can worldwide. Being an IP cop for US interests (and other countries, should they choose to go this regrettable route) shouldn’t even be part of the equation.

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Comments on “IP Commission: Cut Off WHO Funding If It Doesn't Make IP Protection Priority One”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

This HAS to be a Poe...

It just has got to be a giant application of Poe’s law, because the only alternatives I can think of is that they truly and honestly never thought anyone but paid-for politicians would ever see it, and/or no-one sent them the memo that maximalists are supposed to present at least a paper-thin veneer of ‘caring about the people’, rather than being this blunt as to which they consider more important, lives or profit.

fogbugzd (profile) says:

Re: This HAS to be a Poe...

These people have lived in their own little world for so long that they are out of touch with reality. They are still drunk with power after their early success in congress and the courts. They have not realized the backlash that this type of report was bound to create. They are only fanning the flames of opposition to draconian IP enforcement.

Loki says:

Re: Re: This HAS to be a Poe...

They are fanning the flames of opposition to IP, period. With each new story like this, all it does is strengthens my resolve that the only viable solution it to dissolve copyrights and patents completely. And I know a growing number of people who agree with me completely.

I will be very clear and concise about this: the more someone tries to dictate to me, regardless of how many laws they pay off Congress to pass, instead of trying to actually negotiate with me, the more I will simply ignore anything they desire as legitimate.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

More like:

“We’re sorry, we can’t help you with that easily curable disease because a pharmaceutical company in the United States has a patent on the drug we need. We’d be breaking the law if we brought it into your country, which has no IP protection laws!”

If this goes through you can prove that patents are responsible killing people worldwide.

Anonymous Coward says:

Unsurprising behavior, considering the country involved

Recall that this is a country whose incompetent, lazy and stupid intelligence/military personnel were unable to find one guy for over a decade — even though he was exceedingly well-known and was quite careless about concealing his location. In the end, they resorted to a fake vaccination campaign, deliberately endangering innocent people, health workers, and even their own country’s security. (See https://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-cia-fake-vaccination-campaign-endangers-us-all for one analysis.) So why WOULDN’T they be okay with killing a million or ten million or a hundred million people — as long as it preserves their precious profits?

After all…THEIR children won’t be among them. It’s okay to let others’ kids die horribly of readily-curable illnesses, just not theirs.

Anonymous Coward says:

oh I’m sorry, I thought they were talking about money provided to the WHO by American taxpayers, contributed by American Industry that make their money from the value of their IP.

Without the IP protection, America would not have that money to spare to pay WHO in the first place, and finally are you saying if you donate to provide money to a ’cause’ you have no right to ensure that money is used in a sustainable way, or any way the donator desires?

Like it or not (and clearly you don’t), the money being made available is the product of IP, if the IP is violated then that money is less available.

Again, like it or not, it takes a lot of money to develop, test and produce new and existing drugs, if there money is not there, the drugs do not get produced in the first place.

WHO cannot afford to finance and develop and manufacture new drugs, and neither can the drug companies if they are not provided with the profit to amortize the development and production costs.

WHO abiding by IP laws, (everyone has to abide by laws) is ensuring the WHO continues to benefit from the product of those laws. (and profit generated by the IP in the first place).

Being “health” does not give you a free pass to break the law, WHO knows that, US Government knows that, Masnick SHOULD know it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“oh I’m sorry, I thought they were talking about money provided to the WHO by American taxpayers, contributed by American Industry that make their money from the value of their IP. “

WHO receives funding from the UN. That means that it is funded by many states, not just the US.

This makes much of your “points” moot.

But more importantly, why would an organization who’s concern is public healthcare care about Intellectual Property? The UN already have a branch dedicated to IP: WIPO.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Note, I am not an IP abolitionist at all int he general sense. My comments that follow are specifically about IP in health care matters — where I am very close to an abolitionist. Strong IP protection does not make sense in every industry.

Without the IP protection, America would not have that money to spare to pay WHO in the first place

I dispute this assertion when it comes to medical matters. But if it’s true, then it amounts to saying that an industry has been given the right to decide who live and dies as part of their equation for how to maximize profit.

If this is where IP issues are taking us in the medical field, then we need to restore actual, public research into this stuff and remove the stranglehold private industry has on it. These companies have a long history of abusing, and even killing, people in the name of profit. They have demonstrated time and time again that they cannot be trusted in even the most minor matters. To give them a monopoly over health care is absolutely insane.

Keroberos (profile) says:

Re: Re:

This is the prevailing mindset in the US that allows idiotic reports like these get considered. For the record–US law (IP or otherwise) holds no force in countries outside the US unless included in a treaty between that country and the US–which would make it an issue for the departments of state of those two countries–not the WHO.

TheLastCzarnian (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Taxes contributed by American Industry”? You mean “taxes sheltered in off-shore accounts so that the middle class can pay for everything.” IP has nothing to do with it, or if it does, prove it. Prove that a company having the monopoly on a drug contributes to the economy as a whole. Prove that “rounded corners” is a monopoly that benefits humanity.

Hitchen’s Razor: that which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.

RadialSkid (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Like it or not (and clearly you don’t), the money being made available is the product of IP, if the IP is violated then that money is less available.

Says who? Stupid threats like this one from the IP commission basically prevent governments from experimenting with IP-free economies, so you have little evidence to suggest they don’t work. On the other hand, I could point to a few thousand years of human history prior to the Statute of Anne to suggest that they do.

Machin Shin (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Well how about we stop and look at your IP law gives incentive to make new drugs. It is a good thought at first…. but stop and think about it for a minute.

You run a drug company developing new drugs. You will own the patent on the drug and make money for each pill sold. So, knowing your profits are tied to # of pills, do you:

A) Work on developing a cure for cancer that after taking the medication the patient recovers and no longer needs the drug.


B) Work on a “treatment” for cancer that will not cure the person but instead mask the symptoms and make them reliant on your drug for the rest of their life.

The point is, relying on profits as the motivation for new drugs….. is a really really really bad idea. I can promise you that there are plenty of people that would take option B. Most will not admit it openly, but I’m willing to bet it has happened more than once.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Patents have a provably adverse effect on drug development. It works like this: drug companies only invest in new drugs that have a high profit potential. This means that they’ll crank out newer, better, and more expensive penis pills until the cows come home, but they put almost no investment into things like new and better antibiotics.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Again, like it or not, it takes a lot of money to develop, test and produce new and existing drugs, if there money is not there, the drugs do not get produced in the first place.

1. An awful lot of drug development actually happens at universities funded by NIH grants and taxpayer money. The big pharma then comes in to take it over.

2. There are significant costs in testing drugs, which is true, but as we’ve seen the clinical trial process is hopeless corrupt and ridiculously setup. There’s increasing proof that many clinical trials are of dubious quality and many drugs show little real world benefit.

3. The cost of producing drugs is pennies per pill. So, no.

4. What you really mean is that there is tremendous cost in marketing these drugs, and having pharma companies convince (a) the public that they need these pills and (b) doctors that they need to prescribe them.

The whole drug industry is a mess. There are very useful drugs out there, but the idea that health is driven by IP is laughable.

radarmonkey (profile) says:

20 Minutes into the future ....

OPERATOR: 9-1-1. What’s your emergency?
CALLER: Help! My wife is having a heart attack!
OPERATOR: Do you have receipts for all music and movies in your, and your wife’s, possession?
CALLER: What does that have to do with it?! She’s dying! HURRY!
OPERATOR: I understand, sir. But recent regulations require us to verify you are not stealing IP before providing assistance or our funding will be cut off.
CALLER: Now, she’s not breathing!!!
OPERATOR: Sir, please don’t yell. You have to understand the entertainment industry is on the brink of extinction due to people stealing their IP. Everyone has to do their part to prevent that.
CALLER: Never mind, now! She’s dead! Are you happy?!
OPERATOR: No sir, I’m just doing my job to ensure new civilization-enhancing entertainment can be made like ‘Fast and Furious 19’. In the future, I suggest you do your part and keep those records handy. Have a nice day, you movie thief!

out_of_the_blue says:

Assumes that nameless bureaucrats in WHO can be trusted.

You internationalists fall for every scam that’s said to have good intentions, doncha? WHO is at best just more bureaucrats, only far distant, isolated, funded by mostly unwilling taxpayers, and essentially unmonitored. Why do you expect any World Gov’t agency or program to be any better than that of your own nation? — You know them to be corrupt. Beware of do-gooders.

Now, that said, I don’t have any problem with the stated goals of WHO. Nor do I have any problem with the stated US goal here as the AC above expanded on. But there’s reason to doubt that what’s stated are the real goals. You can’t discuss WHO without at least mentioning that vaccines can have bad side effects:

3. The Philippine High Court convicted WHO (The World Health Organization) of involuntarily sterilizing over 3 million Philippina women through the use of vaccines. (Fact)

5. The WHO 5-shot vaccine programs for tetanus in third world countries in South and Central America caused the involuntary sterilization of millions of women. (Fact, ongoing)

AND if you’re at all suspicious of world gov’t then you can’t ignore what COULD happen if EVIL people control WHO:

4. The WHO in 1985 documented that one of its’ primary goals for the use of a sterility vaccine disguised as a smallpox vaccine was to “eliminate 150 million excess Sub Saharan Africans”. (Fact, 1985-ongoing)


To save you time, there isn’t any “proof” there, only the accusations. Just dismiss those as nutty if you can’t handle even considering that there may really be bad people in the world.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Assumes that nameless bureaucrats in WHO can be trusted.

“To save you time, there isn’t any “proof” there, only the accusations.”

Thanks for at least being honest in admitting that you basically have nothing.

But even if all you say is true, one question remains: why are you willing to trust one goup of bureaucrats (IP Commission) over the other (WHO)?

I don’t need to pull out conspiracy theories to show the harm that IP causes every day.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Assumes that nameless bureaucrats in WHO can be trusted.

Eh, I’ll bite.

Here’s the thing blue, even if I believed every single ‘point’ you list above(I don’t, just to be clear), it’s still meaningless, as the ‘suggestion’ they are presenting isn’t to provide any sort of oversight, but rather to turn the WHO into yet another group of US Imaginary Property cops, by threatening to cut the US’s share of funding going to them if they refuse, and even ‘suggesting’ that other countries do the same.

So I guess, nice red herring there, but (as usual) it had nothing to do with the actual point of the article.

Internet Zen Master (profile) says:


Wasn’t there just an article asking how long it would be before IP laws could potentially kill millions?

Well, here’s your answer. Cut funding to WHO unless they making protecting IP their #1 priority.

This isn’t just normal grade fucked up. This is pure “out-of-left-field” grade fucked up.

I doubt even Ebenezer “Are there no poor houses?” Scrooge would suggest something so brazenly greedy and stupid.

Anonymous Coward says:

‘American IP above all else, even the health and well-being of other nations’

is there anything that isn’t, first and foremost, trying to make sure that USA interests are top of the pile and every other country, industry, company, organisation and person is thrown to one side? will these fucking morons ever realise that once the USA has what it wants and no one else wants anything to do with it, the USA will become a single nation fighting against the rest of the world? it is already greatly despised, this route is only making things worse and that’s before anything has actually happened. making the WHO an ‘also ran’ in order to let the USA have what it wants, is a bad move. these people alsop need to think about where it would be if it were not for what has happened elsewhere and the ideas that the USA has stolen. it isn’t all one way traffic and the USA has had it’s fair share of naughty deals and practices too.

Anonymous Coward says:

This'll never happen...

Don’t worry. This’ll never happen. The US can’t even bring itself to properly defund UN agencies when US law says it must. It won’t defund UN agencies that actively promote terrorists against US interests. You’d have to be a whole new level of insane to think the WHO would be the first organisation they’d defund.

special-interesting (profile) says:

Of course the real target is India with its recent refusal to allow some medical drug patent. India also has a history of harboring and supporting generic drug firms that produce cheaper alternatives to US and EU generics. (many examples please google it)

India is one of the few countries strong enough to fight the ridiculous Hollywood Accounting Practices of large drug (big pharma) firms that are used to justify charging +$100,000 (usd 2012) a year for many life saving drugs. (cancer, leukemia treatment and others) Good for them!

There are many ways to attack such any country that dares to defy big pharma and one of them is by ancillary means. Better said is that if one cannot directly use existing draconian patent law practice then try wringing their necks through the back door.

Obviously using the World Health Organizations (WHO) funding to directly strangle developing counties and attempt to force them into very unadvised (and stupidly named) one sided Intellectual Property treaties is bad diplomatic manners to say the least.

India seems like a wise and cultured society politically speaking as compared to its western counterparts. Whereas US and EU political circles seem to have been dominated by entertainment and pharmaceutical special-interest-groups for many a year.

Changing gears… The WHO will be an easy target for any attempt to restrict their funding as they are admittedly one of the most corrupt and organizations under the United Nations preview. ?Unethical practices?, wild claims of influenza pandemics, waste of research funding, waste of funding… on and on (at a loss of words for how many reports of WHO corruption. Another good google). And. In respect to big pharma criticism and rivalry about patent fees who know which side is correct as at least the big pharma groups pull no punches. (Who knows ultimately about the WHO claims) (yawn…)

The WHO is an easy target… Which is likely why they are directly mentioned in this proposed legislation. (want to laugh but am extremely bored by this…)

The US has tried before to stop UN (thus WHO) funding and did so for some years but was ultimately force to continue their funding of previously agreed to treaties. Any such limitations on WHO funding might find a similar ending. To successfully end such international obligations the US would have to create another Constitution. (The original founders of the Constitution estimated that this would happen every 50 +/- years or so.)

This direct attack on WHO funding (however justified/nonsense) is only a distraction when compared to enforcing current health/life killing current patent law. Considering how many levels current copyright/patent malicious-special-interest-groups have penetrated current government at all/most/many levels how can anyone be surprised?

There is no such thing as Intellectual Property! This may be a paraphrase of current political industrial activism but it has no meaning in culturally based reality. None.


Life over death. (why do I have to consider such!) Antagonistically!

Zakida Paul, IP theft? IP is theft. This is reality in anyones eyes that sees that ideas are NOT copyrightable nor patentable.

(Thanks for the comments in general. Mina desu.)

Defense of personal opinion. Copyright is OK if (and only if) its terms are limited to a length much less than the lives of the audience/listener/viewer/etc. Why? We want to TELL the story/message/content to OUR CHILDREN! What good is it if otherwise?

Keroberos. The issues of each individual US department are at many times in conflict with each other. This is good in-terms of democracy but bad in terms of bureaucracy. When US bureaucracy is involved the public is bound to suffer.

RadialSkid; A good example of an awareness of how Intellectual Property (stupidly named IP) tries to trump the basic concept that IDEAS are NOT patentable.

Machin Shin; Good analysis that profits are NOT a measure success in response to eternal/prolonged life.

Mike Masnick; Thanks for the perspective. Your intuition of medical drug development might be the basis of current industrial cultural analysis. (Unspecific, obvious reasons.) Life over profit is an easy cultural goal. Profit is the key as Hollywood Accounting Methods (screw the political correctness) have distorted any so called real analysis.

Radamonkey. (Bwahahahah) Is funny in respect that 911 is a function of Congressional law which is a function of special-interest-groups… (fill in the blank)

Internet Zen Master. Regardless of how you roundabout corral your argument… right on!

Other thoughts… Grand topic!

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