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Thom Tillis, ranking member of the senate IP subcommittee, has urged US president Joe Biden to oppose ‘harmful’ proposals to waive rights related to COVID-19 vaccines currently in discussions at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
The letter, dated February 26, asks President Biden to strengthen IP rights in order to better tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and to intervene in the joint India and South Africa proposal to waive vaccine-related IP rights to more effectively tackle coronavirus in poorer countries.
“The fight against the COVID-19 pandemic has only further highlighted the value of intellectual property to our country and the greater world,” said the letter.
“Our nation’s clear and predictable intellectual property rights facilitated unprecedented collaboration among companies to fight the pandemic, enabling the rapid licensing and sharing of technology to accelerate research and manufacturing… It is therefore critical that America continue to retain and strengthen these intellectual property rights.”
‘A dangerous proposal’
The waiver was previously blocked by the The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Council and the WTO. But in January this year, the WTO announced that it would hear the plea. But the proposal was later declined on January 19.
Now, India has called for the WTO to waive the obligations and has received support from the Vatican, which claimed that the licenses are impeding the rollout of vaccinations to the poorest nations.
The waiver has also seen increasing support within the US, with Congressman Rosa DeLauro claiming it will “ help the global community move forward in defeating the scourge of COVID-19 by making diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines available in developing countries,” according to The Economic Times
Tillis’ letter continued: “This proposal, led by perennial infringers like India and South Africa, alleges, without evidence, that waiving these rights would result automatically in large numbers of additional manufacturers, producing more vaccines… Waiving IP rights would not help achieve the goal you and I share: the fastest possible production and global distribution of safe, affordable vaccines.
“This dangerous proposal… risks grave and permanent damage to the global system of intellectual property rights protections that underpin biomedical research.”
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Joe Biden, COVID-19, World Trade Organisation, IP rights, vaccines, coronavirus, TRIPS, diagnostics, treatments