Adam Mossoff: Biden’s Vaccine Patent Waiver and Intellectual Property

An excellent discussion on YBS with IP expert Adam Mossoff. You can visit Professor Mossoff’s website at adammossoff.com

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From the WSJ:

We’ve already criticized President Biden’s bewildering decision Wednesday to endorse a patent waiver for Covid vaccines and therapies. But upon more reflection this may be the single worst presidential economic decision since Nixon’s wage-and-price controls.

In one fell swoop he has destroyed tens of billions of dollars in U.S. intellectual property, set a destructive precedent that will reduce pharmaceutical investment, and surrendered America’s advantage in biotech, a key growth industry of the future.

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India and South Africa have been pushing to suspend patents at the World Trade Organization for months….their motivation is patently self-interested. Both are large producers of generic drugs, though they have less expertise and capacity to make complex biologics like mRNA vaccines. They want to force Western pharmaceutical companies to hand over IP free of charge so they can produce and export vaccines and therapies for profit.

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AstraZeneca and Novavax have leaned heavily on manufacturers in India to produce billions of doses reserved for lower-income countries. But India has restricted vaccine exports to supply its own population. IP simply isn’t restraining vaccine production.

Busting patents also won’t speed up production, since it would take months for these countries to set up new facilities. Competition will increase for scarce ingredients, and less efficient manufacturers with little expertise would make it harder for licensed partners to produce vaccines.

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Moderna has been working on mRNA vaccines for a decade. Covid represents its first success. Ditto for Novavax, which has been at it for three decades. Small biotech companies in the U.S. have been studying how to create vaccines using nasal sprays, pills and patches.

Thanks to Mr. Biden, all this could become the property of foreign governments.