Executive Director, Health and Drug Policy, Global Innovation Policy Center
September 19, 2023
Global leaders are in New York this week for the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to tackle urgent issues like sustainable development, climate change, and pandemic preparedness. A key focus is creating a framework to boost transformative innovation and production of its products on a global basis.
Effective global standards for intellectual property (IP) protection connects an ecosystem where innovation can thrive. IP creates the legal certainty for innovators to make high-risk, high-capital investments in the next generation of innovative solutions. At the same time, IP enables information sharing among diverse stakeholders throughout the innovation ecosystem.
Why IP matters
During the pandemic, IP-protected voluntary licensing agreements facilitated the global exchange of technical expertise, accelerating the development and distribution of vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics. A multilateral, rules-based system that promotes effective IP standards can further boost private sector R&D investment and enhance collaborative innovation.
The debate over international protections
Despite IP's crucial role in the pandemic response, global discussions are veering toward risky territory with debates on waiving international IP protections. Key points to consider:
- The WTO has already approved an IP waiver specific to COVID-19 vaccines and is contemplating its extension to therapeutics and diagnostics, even after the emergency has subsided.
- Concurrently, draft proposals from WHO and anticipated statements from the UN High-Level Panel on Pandemic Preparedness may include language undermining IP rights.
The ongoing debate over IP waivers has misrepresented and stigmatized the vital role IP plays in delivering innovative solutions to crises such as pandemics, hunger, energy shortages, and climate change.
Stakeholders in many countries where IP standards remain relatively weak will find it difficult to participate effectively in the innovation ecosystem, missing out on opportunities to localize critical elements of the value chain that delivers technological solutions. Perversely, IP waivers and forced technology transfer measures further isolate these markets, precisely opposite their intended effect.
The business community is ready to collaborate with global leaders on pressing challenges. The Chamber emphasizes that innovation, fueled by strong IP standards, is essential for finding effective solutions. UN agencies must support strong IP standards in order to sustain vital progress.
The Chamber at UNGA
The U.S. Chamber is leading over 24 high-level conversations with top government representatives, including heads of state and government, over the course of UNGA, from Sept. 18-22.
Learn more about the Chamber’s role at the 78th UNGA session—which marks the U.S. Chamber’s biggest showing at UNGA ever.