USTR: Don’t let opposition to TRIPS waiver expansion stop here

By Andrei Iancu and David Kappos

Today, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative urged the World Trade Organization to postpone making a decision on expanding the TRIPS waiver. Citing the need for more information, USTR plans to ask the U.S. International Trade Commission to investigate the “market dynamics” for Covid-19 diagnostics and therapeutics.

But after five months of consultations with Congress, academics, think tanks, trade associations, public health and labor advocates — among other key stakeholders — there are no questions left to be studied. The mountain of evidence against a waiver expansion is painfully clear.

No IP-induced shortages of Covid-19 tests and treatments exist. As we recently underscored, “diagnostics manufacturers have reported large surpluses of tests available for order. Governments and NGOs, meanwhile, have large stockpiles of treatments going unused.”

A USITC investigation will only find what we already know to be true — that suspending global IP protections for Covid-19 diagnostics and therapeutics will not improve access to these products. And in the time it takes to conduct this redundant “study,” a host of patents will remain in limbo — causing significant disruptions to the IP-intensive industries that make decisions to invest and innovate based on them.

Rather than dragging this debate out any further, the United States should decide now to oppose the ruinous TRIPS waiver expansion once and for all. As countless, well-informed opponents to the expansion have long expressed, doing so is necessary to maintain America’s innovation system and competitiveness abroad.

Andrei Iancu and David Kappos are Co-Chairs of the Council for Innovation Promotion. They previously served as Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office from 2018-2021 and 2009-2013, respectively.

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