On May 1, 2023, LES USA & Canada submitted comments to the USITC in its investigation of an expansion of the TRIPS waiver for COVID-19-related technologies. LES urged that such a waiver will not increase access to COVID-19-related diagnostics and therapeutics, and so should not be supported by the U.S. government. Nor should such a waiver be approved by the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Last year, WTO approved a waiver of IP rights for COVID-19 vaccines, permitting member countries to waive IP rights to such vaccines. The waiver now under consideration would permit countries to waive IP rights to COVID-19-related technologies beyond vaccines, to include therapies and diagnostics. The USITC has been tasked with investigating whether the U.S. should support such an expanded waiver. LES urged that it should not. There has been no evidence that a waiver of IP rights would increase access to, or availability of, COVID-19-related vaccines, diagnostics, or therapeutics. Indeed, we have witnessed the opposite. A strong and reliable international regime of IP protection has enabled various organizations to collaborate across borders to share knowledge and rapidly produce vaccines, diagnostics, and therapies in record time. Such collaboration would not have been possible without a reliable system of property rights. The premise that IP rights are somehow an obstacle to innovation, collaboration, production, and distribution is unfounded. Thus, the U.S. should not support such an initiative, but should instead urge the international community to respect intellectual property rights, and to abide by the carefully negotiated TRIPS Agreement according to its terms.