Last Wednesday, the Biden administration signalled its intention to support the proposal of India and South Africa at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to waive intellectual property rights (IPR) of the pharmaceutical companies that have developed Covid-19 vaccines. It is, however, far from certain that many manufacturers will make the vaccines without collaborating with the patent holders. The idea of IPR protection is to let innovators, who invest massive sums of money to develop or invent new products, recover their investments. Not allowing them to do so will discourage such investments and we may eventually lose out on new inventions. So, WTO members signed up the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement in 1995 to protect IPR of innovators. In 2001, the WTO unanimously adopted a resolution to waive IPR in case of public health emergencies.
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