Buchanan asks Biden to quash IP waiver proposal for COVID-19 vaccines

Rep. Vern Buchanan

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) and nearly 20 Republicans want to secure American intellectual property (IP) related to COVID-19 vaccines.

The congressman, who serves as vice chairman of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, led his committee colleagues this week in urging President Joe Biden to reject a proposal being considered by the World Trade Organization (WTO) that would waive IP protections for COVID-19 diagnostics and therapeutics.

“I’m pleased to lead this letter with my colleagues urging the Biden administration to reject this ill-advised and dangerous proposal,” Rep. Buchanan said. “Waiving critical IP protections will discourage innovation, make it more difficult to achieve the next life-saving medical breakthrough and serve as a massive giveaway to countries like China who have been stealing our IP for years.”

The members reiterated that stance in a Feb. 23 letter they sent to Biden, warning that waiving protections afforded by the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of IP Rights (TRIPS) would have severe negative consequences for domestic manufacturing and the development of new treatments.

“We are firmly opposed to any such waiver because it would undermine U.S. innovation and make zero contribution to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, which is purportedly the purpose of a waiver,” they wrote. 

Furthermore, the congressmen wrote that one of the primary beneficiaries of any such waiver would be China, because the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has prioritized advancing its own biopharmaceutical sector and frequently has attempted to steal and duplicate American technological inventions to do so, according to their letter.

Rep. Buchanan and his colleagues also noted that the TRIPS waiver could jeopardize the livelihood of many innovative companies and stifle U.S. growth because fewer would choose to invest in life-saving innovations if secure and enforceable IP rights to early-stage innovations were waived. 

“As the global leader in this critical field, the United States would be disproportionately harmed by the proposed decision to weaken our coveted IP rights at the WTO,” wrote Rep. Buchanan and the members. “We need your leadership to squash this proposal once and for all. 

“As we continue to work on a bipartisan basis in the House of Representatives to push back on the CCP’s unfair practices, we urge you to join us in opposing this damaging proposal to extend the TRIPS waiver,” they added.