President Biden, suspend intellectual property rights on Covid vaccines

A mixed group of more than a 100 prominent people, including former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, have reportedly written to the US President Joe Biden, asking for a suspension of intellectual property rights on Covid vaccines to help poorer countries cope with the pandemic.

President Biden should heed the suggestion. There is nothing radical about it. It merely asks the US government to allow existing provision of WTO-compliant intellectual property rules to be used without inviting US displeasure.

Also read: Hope of patent waiver? US talks of disparity and EU of flexibility

The existing WTO rules allow countries to suspend IP rules and provide for compulsory licensing of drugs to cope with health emergencies. We are living through a global health emergency. In the past, countries have been reluctant to invoke their lawful prerogative of compulsory licensing mainly because they were worried about how the US would react. It’s hypocritical to bring about a law that allows for special measures to cope with health emergencies, but find indirect ways of preventing it from being used.

As the world’s largest economy and the most influential country, it is time for the US to display moral leadership in a crisis.



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