Huge News: US Gov't Agrees To Support Intellectual Property Waiver To Help Fight COVID

from the devil-in-the-details dept

Earlier this week we wrote about the absolutely ridiculous coalition of folks who were lobbying against the US supporting a TRIPS intellectual property waiver to support fighting COVID. As we noted, it was totally expected that Big Pharma would object to it, but the surprising thing was seeing Hollywood and the legacy entertainment industry -- an industry that needs COVID to go away to get back to normal -- coming out strongly against the waiver as well. They claimed they had to do so since the waiver would apply to copyright as well, but that's nonsense. The waiver (1) explicitly excluded entertainment products and (2) is expressly limited to "prevention, containment or treatment of COVID-19."

On top of that, the waiver process was built into the TRIPS agreement, and if a full on global pandemic that has already killed over 3 million people (and counting) isn't the time to use the waiver, then the waiver is effectively meaningless.

Thankfully, the US has now announced that it will be supporting a waiver. USTR Katherine Tai made the announcement:

Her quote:

“This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures. The Administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines. We will actively participate in text-based negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) needed to make that happen. Those negotiations will take time given the consensus-based nature of the institution and the complexity of the issues involved.

“The Administration’s aim is to get as many safe and effective vaccines to as many people as fast as possible. As our vaccine supply for the American people is secured, the Administration will continue to ramp up its efforts – working with the private sector and all possible partners – to expand vaccine manufacturing and distribution. It will also work to increase the raw materials needed to produce those vaccines.”

Of course, the details here matter. Tai says the US will support a waiver for vaccines... but did not definitively say if it will support the waiver currently applied for from South Africa and India. It would be just like the US to say it supports the waiver to get everyone who supports the effort to cheer... and then go into negotiations and push for a much, much narrower (and potentially effectively meaningless) waiver. Hopefully that's not the case.

Still, just getting the USTR to support any waiver was a big step. This was far from the most likely outcome. The pharma industry is incredibly powerful at the lobbying game, and when you add Hollywood's muscle to it as well, many people felt that the US would refuse to support the waiver. Hell, earlier this week they even got Dr. Fauci to come out leaning against it, saying he was agnostic on the actual waiver, but thought there were better ways to fight COVID (Fauci may be an expert in infectious diseases, but his expertise in intellectual property is... that he holds a few patents of his own). And, of course, Biden has always had a close relationship with Hollywood and has long been a copyright maximalist.

And, while Fauci may be correct that this may not be the most important thing for fighting COVID, no one is saying this is the only thing. This is just one of a long list of things, and it will undoubtedly help deal with restrictions in some areas that are costing people lives.

In the end, this came down to a simple question: is the best way to protect the global economy to protect the monopoly interests of a few giant companies, or to use knowledge, information, and expertise to help spread better treatments and vaccines faster. The US chose the latter, and it was the only moral choice.

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Filed Under: biden administration, copyright, covid, ip waiver, katherine tai, knowledge, patents, treatments, trips waiver, ustr, vaccines, wto


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  • icon
    Samuel Abram (profile), 5 May 2021 @ 6:07pm

    Incredibly brave of Biden

    In a vacuum, doing this would've been an easy choice seeing that there are lives on the line. But Biden was under enormous pressure from the Pharmaceutical companies, the Hollywood studios, and even Dr. Fauci not to grant the waivers, but he fucking did it anyway.

    While there are many ways Biden could do better, it's as if he's trying to justify his presidency to the many people who voted for him not to feel the disillusionment that I felt after Obama and Bill Clinton. I can't speak for my brethren, but for me, it's working.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 6 May 2021 @ 5:04am

      Re: Incredibly brave of Biden

      I'm cautiously optimistic about Biden - so far he has failed to meet most of the expectations that he'd go all-out carrying water for one major lobbyist segment or the other. Maybe the reality that it's do or die for US democracy has managed to wake him up.

      I'm still not convinced it's more than the last gasp of a dying republic, given that the 30% who voted for Trump are showing no signs at all of having become better people. On the contrary if anything the GOP has stopped dogwhistling to white supremacists and are now using foghorns to trumpet the message of blood and soil instead.

      Meanwhile the democrats are already setting themselves up to lose, trying to sell a confused message of bipartisanship to a population which either knows that's a pipe dream or wants nothing to do with the other side of the aisle any longer.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    OGquaker, 6 May 2021 @ 1:13am

    Say My Name

    Anthony S. Fauci pat.WO1994016074A2,-fld 1993jan15, isu 1994jul21, xpire? (High molecular weight b-cell growth factor: interleukin-14)
    Anthony Fauci pat.WO2000042068A2,-fld 1999jan11, isu 2000jan07, xpire? (Hiv related peptides)
    Andhony S. Fauci sic pat.WO2001032841A9,-fld 1999oct27, isu 2002jul04, xpire? (In vitro T-cell differentiation of cd34+ progenitor cells)
    Anthony S. Fauci pat.EP1446158B1,-fld 2001oct25, isu 2010jul07, xpires2022oct24 (Efficient inhibition of hiv-1 viral entry through a novel fusion protein including of cd4)
    Anthony Fauci pat.US9193790B2,-fld 2006dec07, isu 2015nov24, xpires2031sep04 (Use of antagonists of the interaction between HIV GP120 and A4B7 integrin)
    Anthony S. Fauci pat.US9896509B2,-fld 2006dec07, isu 2018feb20, xpires2027dec06 (Use of antagonists of the interaction between HIV GP120 and α4β7 integrin)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bloof (profile), 6 May 2021 @ 3:51am

      Re: Say My Name

      Oh no, a right wing boogeyman filed patents decades ago because it's standard practice for the role he had at he time! My god, this proves something, I'm not sure what, but I'm sure Alex Jones knows and will tell the world right after plugging some tarragon and parsley power pills that kill all viruses.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 6 May 2021 @ 4:55am

      Re: Say My Name

      A slew of patents to his name is more or less expected for a US researcher. It's an ugly truth that unless that's what you do in the US, your career is dead, because those patents might as well be your resume. Moreso than your actual CV.

      It's similarly unfortunate that to the US medical community doubting patents might as well be a statement that you don't want to work in medicine ever again.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      wereisjessicahyde (profile), 6 May 2021 @ 11:51pm

      Re: Say My Name

      It might help your argument if you had the slightest idea of what any of that meant. But clearly you don't.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        OGquaker, 20 May 2021 @ 4:40am

        Re: Re: Say My Name

        Da, how did you figue me out?
        Disclamer: I graduated as an EEN&T Specialist (91U20) in the USArmy, second in my class and thus earned a rank and my choice of duty stations; Letterman General Hospital, SF, California, 1970 https://www.gao.gov/products/hrd-81-98 After cleanup, LAIR's entire area has been leased to George Lucas Digital for 99 years. I've been following this shit since my mother died of Acquired Immune Deficiency six months before AIDS in March of 1981 (the CDC sent my parents a letter telling them to get 5cc of gamma globulin in each cheek & the new Hepatitis vaccine in 1979), and Me and the Wife just finished up 4 units PHYSIOL 001 at East LA College last year. I helped write one of my fathers 9 patents.
        I wil now crall bk in2 my preper sheltor with the Crips in the hood.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 6 May 2021 @ 3:01am

    Just being careful

    The waiver (1) explicitly excluded entertainment products and (2) is expressly limited to "prevention, containment or treatment of COVID-19."

    Well, it's a stretch calling what comes out of Hollywood "entertainment" these days and if it can be shown that pathogens can be bored to death...

    They are just being cautious.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Bloof (profile), 6 May 2021 @ 3:44am

    Wonder how Bill and Melinda Gates will stop this for personal gain while hiding behind the illusion of philanthropy the way they did the open sourcing of the Oxford vaccine?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ben (profile), 6 May 2021 @ 3:49am

    movies about covid?

    Maybe the Hollywood dimwits thought that the waiver would cover movies about covid-19 vaccine stories. Though what relationship any such stories would have with the truth would be extremely open to question anyway, given Hollywood's capacity for re-writing history. (U-571 anyone?)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2021 @ 5:15am

      Re: movies about covid?

      It is truly ironic that Hollywood chose to glamorize a fictional American seizure of an Enigma machine, since the British already had Enigma machines. Polish intelligence analysts brought them when they fled the German and Russian partition of Poland - Polish intelligence were the actual breakers of the Enigma machine, Turing's work was determining which codewheels were in use that day. The captured Enigma machines really didn't make any difference. What mattered was the German Naval "Flower" code books. The Navy referred to locations by flower names, then scrambled the transmissions with the Enigma machine. The Brits did capture a codebook (U557), taking great pains to conceal the capture from the crew and Germany at large.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 6 May 2021 @ 8:14am

    That running comment about the mob knowing if you kill them you can;t get paid anymore.

    While PHARMA might like the idea of getting every possible cent from the covid vaccine, a lower population means that all that money they spent on evergreening & stopping generic versions from coming to market of their big sellers will not be useful.
    Covid doesn't obey borders so even if they think its just those poor folks we don't give a shit about dying they can cross a border. Leaders of several countries are still trying to pretend covid is fake news, its spreading like a wildfire and mutating at a rate no one expected because the science assumed that leaders wouldn't outright lie about it & take steps to contain it.

    We have 1 shot, and thats to get all the shots everywhere on the planet.
    How many more rounds of mutation until the current vaccines fail to stop a variant?
    How long until we actually start beating the crap out of leaders who are more worried about the economy than the death count?

    Following this will be a picture which will land in moderation but it pretty much sums up the stupidity here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2021 @ 10:11am

    Also Hollywood: Please go to the cinema, we do not care if you or your grandma die, as long as you give us money.

    Also Hollywood: We will socially distance rich celebrities, but we're happy to murder extras and cameramen if it makes money by FORCING them to keep working.

    Also Hollywood: Officially we weep tears for India, Unofficially, the more corpses there are, the less money Bollywood makes, so we're smiling ear to ear.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2021 @ 10:12am

    Remember all the big movie companies claimed and claimed repeatedly that COVID doesn't exist, it was all a hoax, no-one has died anywhere in the world, that it was "less than flu" and people should keep going to the cinema.

    Then the lawyers said "hey we're facing lawsuits big enough to obliterate hollywood entirely" and they deleted tweets and facebook posts and pretended all along they were trying to save lives.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Drew Wilson, 6 May 2021 @ 8:11pm

    Good Move

    Definitely a good move. I'm starting to hear rumblings from some opponents to this move that say that this is a bad move because quality control cannot be assured when other institutes can simply start producing this vaccine. My only tool to counter that is that countries still have to approve of the vaccine in question. Beyond that, my knowledge of the pharmaceutical manufacturing process is limited mainly because my focus has been more on tech issues and copyright.

    Personally, this signals a potential shift in momentum that could bring about a quicker end to this pandemic. I'm glad this is happening and will keep tabs on things as it all develops.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Osvaldo Roncayolo, 20 May 2021 @ 10:49am

    Good government !

    Good government ! and thank you for helping to fight this global virus that has affected us all

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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