Thomas J. Donohue Thomas J. Donohue
Advisor and Former Chief Executive Officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


June 01, 2020


The coronavirus is placing a huge strain on hospitals, doctors, and nurses. While some states are beginning to see a plateau or decline in cases, others have yet to be hit with the full force of this terrible pandemic. Meanwhile, its economic impact is proving to be relentless and wide ranging.

But the American people are proving resilient and are finding ways to adapt. Only through an “all-of-society" approach will we be able to beat this virus and get ourselves back on track. Just a quick scan of the headlines shows how much the business community is doing to help our human family. In the spirit of scientific inquiry, U.S. Chamber member companies continue to work alongside government research labs and universities to find a cure for COVID-19.

Front and center in this fight is a silent partner—strong intellectual property protections—a cornerstone of the American tradition. The average person might not know it, but today 57% of all new medicines come from the United States and private biopharmaceutical companies make up more than 80% of the investment in the research and development of those new drugs. Supported by strong patenting norms, companies like Johnson & Johnson, Gilead, Novartis, and Bayer—to name a few—have announced promising developments in the use of existing drugs, breakthrough trials, and innovative tests for COVID-19.

To aid this all-of-society approach, scientific and medical journal publishers such as Elsevier have made COVID-19, SARS, and MERS-related studies available free of charge to researchers and data miners worldwide. In our information-saturated age, trusted sources of information have become ever more difficult to find. Scientific and medical journals’ role in the R&D ecosystem keep the spirit of science alive by ensuring that such information is not only high quality, but accurate.

Across the country, the technology industry has made remote work and collaboration part of our everyday lives. Many of these breakthroughs would not be possible without 21st century patent protections for software and other intangible goods. Meanwhile on nights and weekends, we stream the latest digitally-delivered music, movies, and television shows— all possible because creators are protected by strong copyright norms.

In 2000, the World Intellectual Property Organization created "World IP Day" to “raise awareness of how patents, copyrights, trademarks, and designs impact daily life.” In years since, scientists, creators, researchers, designers, and policymakers have used this day in late April to truly celebrate the innovations that have benefited humankind. But this year’s World IP Day is, frankly, different than in years past.

But in times like these, IP is more important than ever and its benefits are even greater. To truly fight back, we need millions of dollars’ worth of private sector research, manufacturing, and distribution know-how. Take patents, for instance. Every researcher, scientist, business owner—you name it—relies on a patent to put a great idea on paper. Patents also have many benefits: They prevent good ideas from being stolen; they help formalize developing economies by encouraging cooperation between government and the private sector; they encourage increased investments in biomedical and biopharmaceutical research; and they reward the hard work of inventors and creators everywhere ensuring not only that better music and movies are on the way, but that better medicines are too.

Here at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, we believe in strong, consistent rules on intellectual property for these very same reasons. Prioritizing these policies—as well as the hard work of researchers, creators, and extraordinary people all around the world—will be key in beating back this immense challenge. It’s just another reason to support strong IP protections for all.

For a closer look at the broader U.S. Chamber’s response on the COVID-19 pandemic, in-depth country-by-country data, as well as our recommendations for small businesses and IP industries, please visit

About the authors

Thomas J. Donohue

Thomas J. Donohue

Thomas J. Donohue is advisor and former chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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