Why weakening of intellectual property rules is a threat to California

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This week, members of the World Trade Organization have convened half a world away in Abu Dhabi. But a proposal on the agenda could have profound consequences for us here in California. Representatives of the World Trade Organization’s 164 member nations will discuss whether to waive patent protections on COVID-19 tests and treatments. If California’s political leaders don’t do everything in their power to make sure that doesn’t happen, they’ll risk irrevocable damage to the state’s businesses and economy.

This isn’t the first time the World Trade Organization has considered waiving intellectual property rights. In June 2022, member nations agreed to a patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines. The goal was to allow developing nations to make their own generic copies of the shots — and thereby ease access to the vaccine in some of the poorest areas of the world. No country has yet taken advantage of that waiver. That’s in part because supply has never been the problem. Many developing nations don’t have the infrastructure to store, transport, and administer COVID-19 vaccines. And now, as the threat posed by SARS-CoV-2 has waned, people worldwide are less interested in getting the shot.

Yet for some reason, developing nations are trotting out their old arguments to secure a waiver for the IP behind COVID-19 diagnostics and therapeutics. But as was the case for vaccines, there’s no evidence that intellectual property protections are holding up efforts to get these tools to people in the developing world. Indeed, the supply of tests and treatments is plentiful.

Click to read the full article in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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