IP Giveaway by Biden Administration Sets Troubling Precedent for U.S. Innovation and Foundational Freedoms

By at 5 May, 2021, 10:52 pm


For Immediate Release

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Biden Administration announced it would support a petition before the World Trade Organization to “waive” vital intellectual property (IP) rights for COVID-19 vaccines, and the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council (SBE Council) voiced alarm at the move.  According to SBE Council president & CEO Karen Kerrigan, U.S. political leadership has traditionally focused on advocating for IP rights and protections across the world as a pathway to greater innovation, economic growth, foreign investment and a vibrant startup ecosystem. She said this odd and chancy pivot will do nothing to accelerate the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to those countries lacking the capacity to produce the vaccine on their own. Moreover, stripping these IP rights vastly undermines the President’s recent pledge to make the U.S. the hub for the world’s “arsenal of vaccines.”

“This move by the Biden Administration will undercut the extraordinary progress made on responding to COVID-19. We are just beginning to turn the corner on beating this deadly pandemic, and now this unprecedented policy will create unrealistic expectations across the globe and problems for supply chains.  The IP giveaway will not strengthen the global response to defeating COVID-19, but it does plays into the hands of nations who continually work to weaken IP rights and protections,” said Kerrigan.

In a March 29, 2021 letter to officials within the Biden Administration, SBE Council joined business and IP leaders expressed strong support for U.S. leadership in helping to ramp-up the development and manufacturing of COVID-19 supplies and treatments to end the pandemic, but outlined deep concerns concerning the waiver, including efforts by those countries signing the waiver that have “longstanding goals to weaken IP rights.”

SBE Council chief economist Raymond J. Keating added:

“This is a bewildering step by the Biden administration. After all, among the reasons why the U.S. has led the way in the pharmaceutical industry, including on the vaccines front, are our strong intellectual property protections. Undermining property rights means reducing incentives for risk-taking, reining in innovation, and reducing new and improved treatments for existing ailments, as well as for future diseases and pandemics.”

Keating observed:  “Vaccine manufacturers are working and partnering with other firms to accelerate production and distribution. One has to wonder, therefore, why these calls for rolling back intellectual property protections are even being made.  Is it more about advancing a political agenda? Government undermining property rights will not magically translate into others quickly ramping up production. However, rolling back intellectual property protections will weaken innovation and investment in new medicines and vaccines.”

Keating concluded:  “When this deadly, global pandemic broke out, the pharmaceutical industry got to work. Vaccines were created – thanks to, for example, Johnson & Johnson, Modena, Pfizer, BioNTech, AstraZeneca, and Novavax – and began to be distributed in less than a year. That’s almost miraculous. And it’s critical that the property rights foundation for the miracles produced by free enterprise be maintained.”

Related content:

Vaccines are Saving Small Business, International Business Times Op-ed, April 4, 2021.

No Intellectual Property Rights, No New Vaccines – Small Business Insider blog, April 1, 2021.


Karen Kerrigan,

Raymond Keating,

SBE Council is nonpartisan advocacy, research and education organization dedicated to protecting small business and promoting entrepreneurship. For more than 25 years, SBE Council has worked on and advanced a range of private sector and public policy initiatives to strengthen the ecosystem for strong startup activity and small business growth. Visit for additional information. Twitter: @SBECouncil




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