from the like-it-even-matters-now? dept
In what definitely feels like a case of way too little, way too late, the WTO last week finally decided to grant the TRIPS waiver on COVID vaccines, allowing others to make more of the vaccine without violating patent rights. The WTO has long had this ability to issue a patent waiver as part of its Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement. The idea is that in an emergency, when patents or copyrights are getting in the way of real harm, the WTO can say “hey, let’s grant a waiver to save people.”
You would think that a global pandemic where people are dying would be an obvious time to use such a waiver grant, but that’s because you’re not an obnoxious IP maximalist who cares more about their precious monopoly rents than the health and safety of the global populace. The big pharma and medical device companies freaked out about the possibility of a waiver, and even worse, Hollywood also flipped out about it, with their typical worry that any proof that removing an intellectual monopoly might be good for the world cannot be allowed.
It took forever, but in May of last year (already a year and a half into the pandemic), the US agreed to support the TRIPS waiver. This caused much gnashing of teeth among the maximalists, and then it still took over a year before this agreement was reached, and of course, now it’s both greatly watered down, and very much too late to make much of a difference. But kudos Hollywood and pharma lobbyists. You let thousands of people die, but you sure protected your IP. Good work!
But experts said the proposal was weakened significantly over months of negotiations. They said they did not expect the final agreement to encourage manufacturers in developing countries to start producing Covid vaccines, in part because it does not address the trade secrets and manufacturing know-how that many producers would need.
Even worse, the agreement is limited just to vaccines, and does not apply to either testing or therapeutics — both of which are way more important today than vaccines.
Even as this version is basically close to useless, Big Pharma continued to freak out.
The industry’s main lobbying group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, sharply criticized Friday’s agreement. Stephen J. Ubl, the group’s head, called it one in a series of “political stunts” and said it “won’t help protect people against the virus.” He noted that the industry had already produced more than 13 billion Covid vaccine doses.
Yeah, it won’t help protect people because you and your lobbyists spent two years trying to block it, so that when this finally happened it was way too late, and even when it did happen, you watered it down and limited it to the point of uselessness. The “political stunt” was yours, Stephen. I hope all those dead people were worth it.
And, of course, you have the WSJ journal to jump in… and laughably claim this was “Biden’s gift to China.”
The World Trade Organization was created to protect free-trade rules to spread prosperity. Now it’s becoming a vehicle to raid U.S. innovation. See Friday’s agreement by the WTO’s 164 members that lets developing countries, including China, steal intellectual property for Covid vaccines.
The White House is flogging the deal as a diplomatic victory. But it’s an enormous defeat for U.S. national interests that will benefit China and set a precedent that erodes intellectual property protection. This won’t be the last time global grifters seek to pilfer U.S. technology.
What are you even talking about? If it took two and a half years in the middle of a pandemic to get an agreement on life saving vaccines, that still has massive limits, and is both way too little and way too late, the idea that this is setting a precedent that “erodes intellectual property protection” is idiotic to the point of laughable.
And, again, all this does is remove some patent barriers (not other manufacturing barriers) on vaccines that are saving lives. Yes, it may help save lives in China, but is the Wall Street Journal editorial board really arguing that we should let them die because they’re Chinese? It sure sounds like it.
In short, there’s nothing legally binding to stop China from stealing U.S. mRNA technology, using it to develop its own vaccines including for other diseases, and then selling the shots under their own brands. The agreement lasts five years so it could potentially cover a future combined mRNA vaccine for Covid, flu and respiratory syncytial virus.
Newsflash to the WSJ editorial board: I know that you’re among those pushing the idea that the pandemic is over, but it is not. Keeping the world healthy, including in China (which the US economy still relies on heavily) is good for the US economy too. When China runs into problems with the pandemic, then you get more supply chain problems that are currently a huge part of the economic difficulties in the US. Maybe that’s fine for you because it’s another thing you can falsely blame on Biden, but this editorial is literally complaining that this minor reduction in patent rights might help Chinese people stay alive. It’s pretty disgusting.