CAP TIMES / CAPITOL TIMES – Madison, WI (224,800 unique monthly visitors)
On September 27, 2022, the CAP TIMES (Capitol Times) in Madison, WI, the state capitol, ran a guest column entitled Rethink decision to give away COVID vaccine info by healthcare consultant Joe Hammang focusing on the TRIPS waiver by the WTO. Hammang raises concerns about a precedent being set by eroding the intellectual property rights of not only those in pharma and healthcare but in other businesses as well that rely on confidential research to succeed. He calls on the WTO and U.S. to stop another vote that threatens to giveaway additional rights in the next few months. Some of the highlights of the opinion piece include:
- This summer, the WTO — backed by the U.S. and a few other countries — voted to waive Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), requiring those who manufacture the lifesaving COVID-19 vaccinations to relinquish their confidential research for free to other less fortunate countries so they can manufacture and distribute their versions of the vaccine. Sadly, several of these countries already have a history of a weak scientific infrastructure and/or poor distribution channels to support the perceived benefits of this giveaway. Complicating matters further, an expected vote in December by the WTO will expose even more confidential information by extending the present waiver to release previous proprietary research on COVID-19 therapeutics and diagnostics.
- As one might expect, some companies are getting nervous. Biotech — the medical and science industries, or any company that thrives on confidential/intellectual property rights, product creation, research, etc. — is likely thinking twice about investing millions of dollars and thousands of hours of labor into creating something they know could now be taken from them and just given away.
- Simply standing by and allowing this to occur threatens innovation and entrepreneurs well beyond the health community. A decision like this sets a concerning precedent that all businesses should take notice of. As someone who has also personally invented or co-invented more than 35 U.S. and foreign patents in various areas of biotechnology, I truly understand the value of this intellectual property.
- Like others, I absolutely believe our country needs to be helpful internationally, but we also need to be smart and protective of our free enterprise system that encourages and allows new business and ideas to flourish through protected research and ideas. We shouldn’t be undermining the foundational incentives for ideation and innovation.
- There are many paths to providing help to those less fortunate without hurting the businesses and great minds who put our country in this position in the first place. My hope is that the WTO, the U.S, and others will take a much harder look at issues like this before December and not make the same mistake twice. Undermining the protection of intellectual property — the cornerstone of American ingenuity — is not a solution to income or quality of life differences among countries. It would in fact, just serve to make all future generations poorer.