President Biden capitulated yet again to political far-left progressives in the Democratic Party when he announced support for a waiver of valuable U.S. COVID-19 vaccine intellectual-property (patent) rights.
A Wall Street Journal editorial described the action as “may be the single worst presidential economic decision since Nixon’s wage-and-price controls.”
The waiver came in response to demands by India and South Africa at a World Health Organization meeting that would force pharmaceutical companies to hand over their COVID vaccine patent rights to manufacturers in low-income countries.
In one blundering decision, Biden destroyed tens of billions of dollars in U.S. intellectual-property value, set a precedent that will reduce investment in pharmaceuticals, and surrendered American competitive advantage in biotech and biologics.
Most significantly, Biden’s action is a massive giveaway to countries like China, Russia and India.
Republicans warn that China will be the primary beneficiary. The Chinese have targeted the biopharmaceutical industry for dominance by 2025 and the Justice Department indicted individuals last year connected to the Chinese government’s attempt to steal U.S. COVID research.
“Looking ahead to the next pandemic, it is dangerous for America to consent to strip away patents on lifesaving COVID vaccines now that cost businesses billions of dollars to develop at an historic pace – and to reward China with access to U.S. innovation for a world pandemic China created,” House Ways and Means ranking member Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said.
Former presidents, both Republicans and Democrats, have historically been strong defenders of intellectual-property rights, so the move by Biden was shocking.
Pharmaceutical companies including Moderna and Pfizer say granting the waiver will undermine incentives to develop drugs to fight future pandemics and other diseases.
Drug companies weren’t the only opponents of the waiver. Global health philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates opposes intellectual-property waivers, saying that manufacturers of generics couldn’t ramp up production quickly, and that vaccine quality could be compromised.
European governments strongly oppose the waiver, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.
Merkel and Macron agreed that Biden should instead increase the United State’s export of COVID-19 vaccines to help curb the virus globally. The goal should be to turn the United States into an “arsenal of vaccines,” as Biden once promised.
Rather than handing over American intellectual property to the world, Biden should negotiate bilateral vaccine agreements and export excess U.S. supply – thereby creating American jobs.
Biden listened instead to political far-left progressives — Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez — advocating destructive socialism.
Real progressives recognize that intellectual-property rights are the source of incredible social and commercial value. Thanks to digital technology and the Internet, IP is more critical to America’s economic prosperity than ever.
Our nation’s founders recognized the value of intellectual-property by embedding it in the U.S. Constitution, granting Congress power to protect it.
Article I, Section 8 provides: “Congress shall have Power… To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”
President George Washington called for laws protecting intellectual-property rights in his first message to Congress, and his confidante James Madison led the first Congress to enact the Patent Act of 1790.
While intellectual-property law has changed the central concepts remain the same bringing more economic benefit to the nation than the founders could have envisioned.
Inventions receiving patent credit include the electric motor, telephone, incandescent light, internal combustion engine, motion picture, radio, air conditioning, airplane, rocket, television and atomic reactor.
Real progressives are stimulated by change and welcome new ideas by rewarding success. Encouraged are bold innovations, imagination, invention and entrepreneurship.
In reality, far-left progressives are reactionaries on IP.
If you want miracle vaccines, you need intellectual-property rights.
Jim Hartman is an attorney residing in Genoa. E-mail email@example.com.