Republican Senators Demand Answers from Biden on ‘Disastrous Decision’ to Support COVID IP Waiver

By Eileen McDermott
May 21, 2021

“Simply put, the Biden Administration’s support for a TRIPS waiver puts America’s interests last and China’s interests first.”

Republican Senators Demand AnswersA group of 16 Republican senators sent a letter on Wednesday to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai denouncing the Biden Administration’s “disastrous decision” to support a proposal at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to waive intellectual property (IP) rights for COVID-19-related inventions and products.  The letter explains that the waiver is not limited to vaccines and “will do nothing to end the pandemic,” but will instead “undermine the extraordinary global response that has achieved historically remarkable results in record time and our nation’s global leadership in the technologies, medicines, and treatments of the future.”

The senators blasted President Joe Biden for purporting to be a “jobs” president while forcing American companies to give away their technology to foreign adversaries. “Simply put, the Biden Administration’s support for a TRIPS waiver puts America’s interests last and China’s interests first,” said the letter.

In order to help the senators, as well as the American public, better understand the Biden Administration’s reasoning for supporting the waiver, the letter asks Raimondo and Tai to respond to 10 questions by June 19, 2021. The questions include implications that the decision may have been influenced by conversations with China’s President Xi Jinping, or based on developing nations’ promises to support Biden’s foreign policy priorities, such as climate policies; they ask for information on who the Administration met with from China, India or South Africa for discussions on the TRIPS waiver, and what they discussed; and whether the Administration plans on making any future IP concessions to foreign nations.

The second question asks for information on whether the Administration plans to waive U.S. IP laws in the event a waiver is passed, since the proposed waiver would not mandate, but simply allow, countries to waive IP protections, and what would happen in a number of scenarios if so. What would happen in the case that a Chinese national is found to have stolen trade secrets, for example—“would they not be prosecuted? And, what of the Chinese nationals currently being prosecuted? Would those cases now be dropped?”

The question further presses for information on how such a waiver would be implemented and the impact it would have on private citizens, as well as U.S. obligations at the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Other questions ask Tai and Raimondo to quantify evidence for supporting the waiver, such as how many countries have ever used TRIPS flexibilities since 2001, what evidence was used to conclude that IP was a barrier to vaccine manufacturing, and the future impact of waiver on the U.S. biopharmaceutical manufacturing industry, as well as U.S. innovation overall.

The senators wrote: “Biopharmaceutical manufacturing provides good-paying jobs for hundreds of thousands of American workers, whose livelihoods will be adversely impacted by this decision. What will you do to support these workers and how do you reconcile this decision with the Administration’s desire to be a ‘jobs’ president?”

The letter also asks whether the Administration plans to waive IP protections for future potential vaccines and treatments for diseases like malaria, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, and how such technologies will be affected by the lack of confidence the decision to support waiver has produced.

Finally, the senators ask Tai and Raimondo if the Administration plans to submit the text of any negotiated waiver to Congress for approval and if it “will commit to respecting the role of the legislative branch and refrain from unilaterally overriding or amending the terms of a Congressionally-approved agreement without approval from Congress?”

The letter was signed by Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Mike Crapo (R-ID), James Lankford (R-OK), Mike Lee (R-UT), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Todd Young (R-IN), Richard Burr (R-NC), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Mike Rounds (R-SD), and Steve Daines (R-MT).

Earlier this month, Senators Tillis and Cotton released a statement following Tai’s announcement on supporting waiver that also called the decision “disastrous.” It continued:

We support distributing vaccines to countries that need them, but not in a way that jeopardizes America’s successful vaccine development. It’s astonishing that President Biden is now providing the Chinese Communist Party with access to America’s intellectual property, medical research, and innovation.

 

The Author

Eileen McDermott

Eileen McDermott is the Editor-in-Chief of IPWatchdog.com. Eileen is a veteran IP and legal journalist, and no stranger to the intellectual property world, having held editorial and managerial positions at several publications and industry organizations. She has acted as editorial consultant for the International Trademark Association (INTA), chiefly overseeing the editorial process for the Association’s twice-monthly newsletter, the INTA Bulletin. Eileen has also served as a freelance editor for the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO); as senior consulting editor for the Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO) from 2015 to 2017; as Managing Editor and Editor-in-Chief at INTA from 2013 to 2016; and was Americas Editor for Managing Intellectual Property magazine from 2007 to 2013.

Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on IPWatchdog.com do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author as of the time of publication and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of IPWatchdog.com. Read more.

Discuss this

There are currently 21 Comments comments. Join the discussion.

  1. Anon May 21, 2021 8:34 am

    Point blank question: where are the “D’s”?

    I’ve note several times now that this appears to be a severe cognitive dissonance moment for those with both Liberal Left and Big Pharma proclivities.

    The silence is deafening.

  2. Model 101 May 21, 2021 11:55 am

    Biden wasn’t even elected properly and now he’s giving our technology away. What a maroon!

  3. Anon May 21, 2021 12:13 pm

    Meh, Biden was elected as ‘properly’ as any other election.

    Were there issues?
    Certainly.

    But there are those types of issues with every election.

    Further, the one has nothing to do with the (patent AND other IP) legal points at hand.

  4. Pro Say May 21, 2021 12:38 pm

    Cheney 2024.

  5. Anon May 21, 2021 12:47 pm

    To (partially) answer my own question, some of the “D’s” are here:

    https://www.ipwatchdog.com/2021/05/19/house-committee-targets-abbvie-patent-practices-urges-ftc-investigate/id=133768/

    More cognitive dissonance for our Big Pharma Liberal Left folk…

  6. George May 21, 2021 2:29 pm

    “Biden wasn’t even elected properly and now he’s giving our technology away. What a maroon!”

    Well, that makes clear what your view on ‘facts’ is! No use for people who can’t accept simple ‘facts’! No use to employers either! Good luck with that! Lots of people going to jail who (forcefully) claimed that! Lucky if you weren’t in Washington on Jan 6th! Very lucky indeed!

  7. George May 21, 2021 2:39 pm

    Will probably never go anywhere, anyway! Not worried at all.

    But it WILL encourage vaccine makers to keep their prices low and not engage in price-gouging when it comes to pandemics! Pandemics are no time to focus on ‘profits’! After all people will ‘remember’ who was trying to help them, and who wasn’t! They don’t want to get a reputation ‘making money’ off of people dying! Besides ‘vaccines’ are never normally money-makers, anyway (unless maybe everyone has to get them every year). They are mostly good for PR and advertising purposes.

    Again, you DON’T want to get a reputation for ‘profiting from’ the pain and suffering of others! You want to get a reputation for ‘helping’ them – ALL of them (not just the affluent). Luckily, it seems the drug companies appear to understand that simple principle and won’t be price-gouging sick and dying people. Patents (of the big companies) will be safe! LOL!

  8. George May 21, 2021 2:55 pm

    “The silence is deafening.”

    Because in the end it’s a NON-PROBLEM! More like still ‘just a suggestion’.

    Also, what’s wrong with ‘altruistic research’ (once in a while and for a good cause)? Universities do it all the time. It’s how we got the Polio vaccine too! You think Jonas Salk wouldn’t have developed it without getting paid millions of dollars?! Not all people are ‘greedy’ after all – at least not the ‘good ones’ (I know that’s a hard concept for some)! Besides, any company can write off ‘losses’ (including of losses from sacrificed or denied profits, or for charitable purposes). They could also amortize those ‘losses’ over much more profitable years.

    And, no one who worked on the Manhattan Project ever got rich (especially Oppenheimer). That was a good thing, or we would all be speaking German or Japanese now! Only lawyers immediately and exclusively think about ‘money’ (to the exclusion of all else)! Real innovators and scientists don’t think about it so much, or we would have NO science and invention (since it rarely if ever pays off financially)! We would just have lawyers, stock brokers, hedge fund managers and investment bankers (ironically with nothing to do)!

  9. George May 21, 2021 2:58 pm

    @Model 101 #2

    “Biden wasn’t even elected properly”

    Hate to break it to you, but > 50 courts said otherwise!!! Why not just come back to ‘reality’ before it’s time for the funny farm?!

  10. Anon-noyed May 21, 2021 3:17 pm

    So Republicans were for COVID liability protections before they were against them. Got it.

    https://www.cbsnews.com/news/senate-republicans-to-propose-laundry-list-of-liability-protections-in-next-covid-relief-bill/

  11. Anon May 21, 2021 4:04 pm

    George,

    Yet another area (Pharma) that you exhibit a complete lack of understanding NOT getting in the way of you expressing your views.

    You do realize that ALL of Pharma is about making money off of pain, suffering and illness, right?

    Do you realize the obscene profits made across the board, year after year after year?

    Do you ever wonder why calls for (merely) complete visibility and nothing in the shadows ALWAYS are rebuffed (and in Congress, rebuffed with MASSIVE juristic Voice$$$)?

    A non-problem….? Your view is non-sense.

  12. Model 101 May 21, 2021 4:41 pm

    To the other Maroons –

    Joe and the H? will probably be moving next to Obama in $50M homes after killing the Covid patents. At the Senate hearings in 2019, a former Obama lawyer was begging to stop 101 reform. 101 is/was a virtual sugar factory for liberal judges and politicians.

    They just want to kill the Covid patents for some more state sponsored and Big Tech … sugar.

    George > 50 courts…. all political…you can’t trust judges! Clearly, you never invented anything!

    Also George – clearly you never took economics in school – a thing is worth what a person will pay for it.

    Insane profits – take a look at big tech…

    Go back to your Maroon hole.

  13. George May 21, 2021 4:57 pm

    Yeah, they just can’t make enough money now! It’s criminal to deny them this money! LOL! Who cares about those who can’t pay for a vaccine?!

    https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/21/business/covid-vaccine-billionaires/index.html

  14. George May 21, 2021 5:08 pm

    “So Republicans were for COVID liability protections before they were against them. Got it.”

    Again, just worried about potential losses in (the usual) corporate profits! Even if liable, no one in a corporation ever goes to jail! What’s new?! Money, money, money . . . people not so much!

    Luckily, that’s already starting to change (with people not wanting to go back to work at their ‘dismal’ corporate lives)! Maybe one of the few good things to come out of this pandemic. We have ENOUGH billionaires now! We have more than enough of them. What need more of is ‘innovation’ and ‘new’ companies – 1000’s of them – and the millions of new and ‘better’ jobs they would create!

  15. George May 21, 2021 5:11 pm

    A “non-problem” for the pharmaceuticals, because this ‘proposal’ will never go through or have any effect on them anyway! A “non-problem’ for them, not society!

  16. Anon May 23, 2021 7:36 am

    George,

    If you were to train your AI with the “care” and deliberation that you show in your comments, it probably is a very good thing that your hobby horse remains a fantasy at this point.

  17. Anon2 May 23, 2021 11:19 am

    George, you do realize how much it costs to develop new drugs and how many don’t get approved for use? The ones that make it through have also to pay for all the failed drug development and trials etc., so a period of time where the invention is protected doesn’t seem too unreasonable. The biggest health problem the world is going to be facing outside pandemics in “normal” times is going to be the increasing inefficacy of antibiotics. What incentive is there going to be for pharma to invest in research to find new ones as bacterial infections prove increasingly resistant to the existing ones?

  18. Pro Say May 24, 2021 9:01 pm

    Hey George, Merriam-Webster called to say exclamation marks are running low . . . and they’d like you to please save some for others.

  19. George June 5, 2021 11:24 pm

    @Pro Say #18

    LOL! OK, I’ll try!

  20. Anon June 6, 2021 11:42 am

    George, is that you? Have you rally returned?

    Why here? Why not on any of the other MANY threads to which the ball of the conversation is in your court?

    Could it be that your silence there is merely a sign that you have no clue as to what you want to pontificate upon?

    Your empty wagon clattering down the uneven sidewalk has been called out. Maybe you don’t like the attention of that.

    Goodness knows – that would be an improvement from you.

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