IP isn’t the problem, it’s the solution; stealing stuff isn’t the solution, it’s the problem, writes Richard C. Owens in the Financial Post. Below is an excerpt from the article which can be read in full here.

By Richard C. Owens, May 12, 2021

The US decision to support a World Trade Organization waiver of intellectual property (IP) related to COVID vaccines, therapies and medical devices is baffling and perverse, not to mention a betrayal of the country’s long-standing support for strong IP protections. The Wall Street Journal called it “bewildering” and “the single worst presidential economic decision since Nixon’s wage-and-price controls.”

Canada must not follow the Americans’ appalling example. We have an opportunity to show support for an industry we have mistreated for far too long, but our response so far has been limp and ambiguous.

The WTO proposal began with India and South Africa. It is opportunistic and exploitative. IP is not currently limiting access to vaccines or other therapies or devices. The companies involved have gone to great lengths to provide wide access to their IP. Manufacturers are licensing intellectual property royalty-free, selling at cost, collaborating with competitors and donating to less-developed countries. The issues that remain involve scaling and logistics. It’s worth noting also there already are measured, emergency medical provisions to access IP in the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). A blanket waiver would, instead, create a free-for-all, achieving nothing but the destruction of valuable intellectual property.

There isn’t a large supply of expert manufacturing capacity sitting out there that has the complex know-how, and logistics and supply networks to manufacture and distribute these very complex vaccines and other therapies, or even the ingredients necessary for them — especially without profit. Access to IP might lead some new players to try to scale up — but it won’t provide any near-term relief.


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