FC: Weakened intellectual property rights ends in suffering, death?

From: Declan McCullagh (declanat_private)
Date: Wed Nov 20 2002 - 10:58:56 PST

  • Next message: Declan McCullagh: "FC: Which states currently fingerprint drivers (Georgia already does)"

    Death and Suffering as the Unintended Consequences of Trade Negotiations
    By Tom Giovanetti
    If the study of public policy teaches us anything, it is that political
    solutions usually have unintended and frequently negative consequences.
    This is known as the "Law of Unintended Consequences," which asserts that
    we cannot always predict the results of a change in government policy.
    Next week, at the next round of negotiations for the Doha Declaration on
    Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs), the United
    States, at the hands of U.S. Trade Representative, Robert Zoellick, is
    apparently going to stumble into the Law of Unintended Consequences, and
    the result could be the unnecessary death and suffering of thousands of
    people in the future.
    There is a great deal of death and suffering going on in the Third World as
    a result of such diseases as AIDs. The solution is the continued innovation
    and better distribution of lifesaving pharmaceutical products, as well as
    the long-term development of these countries. The pharmaceutical industry
    has developed a number of drugs that successfully treat, to various
    degrees, AIDs and its related complexes, and these companies are doing
    everything they can to get these drugs to needy countries at very low
    prices?sometimes even for free. More often than not, it is not the
    availability of low-cost drugs that is the problem in those countries?it is
    the utter lack of a distribution network, and the lack of adequate health
    care providers to make effective use of the drugs that have been made
    Big, profitable pharmaceutical companies are the best friends an AIDs
    victim in a Third World country could ever have. They are innovating the
    drugs, and making them available. These companies should be hailed as
    heroes in the global fight against AIDs.
    But left-leaning activists, who always seem to see the United States and
    capitalism as the source of the world's problems, see things differently.
    They think that the U.S., and pharmaceutical companies, are the villains,
    and they are proposing with breathtaking boldness the legalized theft of
    drug patents by Third World countries.
    The vehicle for this assault has been paragraph 6 of the declaration
    promulgated at the WTO meeting in Doha. It states that the poorest
    countries would be entitled to declare a public health emergency and compel
    the licensing of drugs to treat HIV, malaria and tuberculosis ? diseases
    that are particular scourges of the developing world. It is important to
    state that no one, including the pharmaceutical industry, objects to this
    However, in the current round of TRIPs negotiations, activists are
    asserting the right of any developing country to seize any patent, or
    import any generic drug, so long as it claims that is has a public health
    crisis. They would not confine this right to the three diseases specified
    at Doha. This represents a global assault on intellectual property of
    unprecedented proportions. And the U.S. position, suggested by
    Representative Zoellick's statements, is apparently to cave in to these
    radical demands. Although he has stated that the US does not share the
    activists' interpretation of the declaration, he has not insisted on
    legally-binding language that would limit the seizure of patents to TB, HIV
    and malaria.
    To weaken international patent protection and allow any developing country
    to steal and nationalize the intellectual property of pharmaceutical
    companies will be perhaps the most glaring and destructive example of the
    Law of Unintended Consequences in recent memory. If Representative Zoellick
    caves in to the radical activists, it will be the end of intellectual
    property protection in the Third World.
    Strong intellectual property protection is a hallmark of every advanced
    economy. Any hope these countries have of "developing" is at least
    partially dependent on their development of private property protection,
    including intellectual property protection. Without intellectual property
    protection, these Third World countries will never develop to their full
    economic potential. Without intellectual property protection, a country is
    not developing?it is stagnant.
    Perhaps even more important, if the property rights of drug companies can
    be legally stripped away, they will become less profitable, which is
    perhaps an ancillary goal of the activists. Why should a company spend
    millions of dollars to develop a new drug if a dozen or so countries can
    immediately steal the patent and begin producing bootleg versions of the
    drug, with the blessing of the U.S. government?
    For the United States to endorse the legalized theft of intellectual
    property will betray our principles, set a bad example for developing
    countries, and result in fewer new drugs created. And that means diseases
    not cured and pain not relieved in the United States, as well as the
    developing world.
    Tom Giovanetti is president of the Institute for Policy Innovation, a
    public policy think tank based in Dallas, Texas.
    POLITECH -- Declan McCullagh's politics and technology mailing list
    You may redistribute this message freely if you include this notice.
    To subscribe to Politech: http://www.politechbot.com/info/subscribe.html
    This message is archived at http://www.politechbot.com/
    Declan McCullagh's photographs are at http://www.mccullagh.org/
    Like Politech? Make a donation here: http://www.politechbot.com/donate/
    Recent CNET News.com articles: http://news.search.com/search?q=declan

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Wed Nov 20 2002 - 16:10:15 PST