US Chamber of Commerce Opposes WTO’s proposal to Waive IP Rights

On April 11, 2022 The U.S. Chamber of Commerce published a letter was sent to members of congress expressing strong support for both the “No Free TRIPS Act” and the “Protecting American Innovation Act.”

According to the letter, if enacted, these bills “would prohibit the Administration from negotiating or concluding any modifications to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) agreement, without the explicit authorization of Congress.” The Chamber is concerned about the potential impact of the proposed waiver of patent rights for COVID-19 vaccine technology. The letter comes after the European Union, United States, India and South Africa reached a compromise on language for waiver terms last month.

On other hand, this proposal is fundamentally misguided and should be rejected. It ignores that the overwhelming problem is not vaccine production, it is last-mile delivery, and it will erode the ability of innovative companies to develop the cure for the next pandemic or global health threat.

International negotiations on IP, focused on undermining the WTO TRIPS agreement, are fundamentally misguided. Any agreement that undermines IP would limit the ability of innovative companies to develop the cure for the next pandemic or global health threat and bargain away US competitiveness. Instead, governments should focus on the overwhelming problem of vaccine distribution and the last-mile delivery.

Intellectual property waiver proposals distract from the real issues preventing more shots in arms such as logistical hurdles, supply chain bottlenecks, and vaccine hesitancy. Worse yet, dismantling IP rights threatens the licensing arrangements that are enabling rapid global production and technology transfer.  Any WTO action undermining IP will harm multiple U.S. industries, who are global leaders in their fields, and who depend on IP protections. Any agreement of this kind would bargain away US competitiveness.