Over the past couple of years, the idea of waiving intellectual property rights for the sake of society or for “goodwill” has become popularized. In years past, most people did not even think about intellectual property, but now, it is not uncommon to see IP stories on the news. Many news reports express the idea that companies should be willing to waive their IP rights for the sake of society, particularly in cases involving potentially life-saving vaccines and medical treatments. Does this really make sense?
IP rights waivers not a new concept
This concept is not new. In fact, the World Trade Organization has a formal process to waive the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. Under this scheme, for biomedical advances, IP rights can be waived to allow for local production in areas where there has been an inability to get those advances to the local population.
Proponents argue that it is the responsibility of private businesses to ensure that their biomedical advances are equitably distributed. In other words, IP holders have a moral duty to waive their rights for the good of the world, and should do so in order to build goodwill among the global citizenry.
Waivers do not solve other problems
Even if a pharmaceutical company does decide to build its global goodwill through waiving its IP rights, this does not necessarily make it any easier for other parties to manufacture the drugs. Producing medication is about more than knowledge; it is also about execution. If other countries don’t have the infrastructure and trained personnel to manufacture the drugs, an IP waiver doesn’t help.
As such, goodwill IP waivers may not be a good idea for many Texas businesses. In fact, considering that IP plays a major role in the U.S. economy, IP waivers may not be good for the United States, generally. That said, there are cases where an IP waiver may be in a company’s best interests. An attorney with experience in intellectual property can advise business leaders about their options.