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Mossoff and Adalja: IP Waivers Disarm Us against Pandemics

“Patents Kill” is a lie. The truth is “Patents Save Lives.”

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Ayn Rand was a fierce champion of intellectual property (IP) rights in the face of its many hostile enemies. She defined and defended patents and copyrights as “the legal implementation of the basis of all property rights: a man’s right to the product of his mind.” For this reason, Rand regarded attacks on IP as undercutting the very source of innovation and production itself.

Anyone who shares Rand’s position on IP should be alarmed by recent proposals for COVID-19 vaccine patent waivers. The proposals are based on the belief that “patents kill” by stalling vaccine production and distribution, especially to poorer countries. The waivers were actually   implemented last June by the World Trade Organization (WTO) with the support of the United States government. Further extension of that waiver is now being debated in the U.S. Congress.

Readers who want to learn more about what is at stake can consult a recent policy brief, “Patents as a Driver of the Unprecedented Biomedical Response to COVID-19.” In it, Adam Mossoff and Amesh Adalja defend the COVID-19 vaccine patents against the smear that “patents kill.”

Mossoff and Adalja are well positioned to defend the rights that heroic scientists and businessmen have to the products of their own minds. Mossoff is a professor of law at George Mason University and is one of America’s foremost defenders of IP rights, having testified before Congress multiple times on the issue. Amesh Adalja is an infectious disease physician and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security who is frequently interviewed by the media for his expertise on pandemics. They have also each given multiple talks at Objectivist Summer Conference using Objectivism as a framework for their analysis.

Not only do Mossoff and Adalja debunk the argument that “patents kill” in their policy brief, they demonstrate that the life-saving speed with which an abundance of COVID-19 vaccines were developed, produced, and distributed was possible only because of vaccine patents. It is because patents protected the work of scientists and businessmen early in the pandemic that there was an abundance of vaccines that muted the effects of the subsequent patent waivers.

Those who claim to have a right to expropriate the product of the minds of the scientists and businessmen who saved millions of lives from COVID-19 are disarming them from fighting the next global pandemic.

Mossoff and Adalja’s policy brief provides the ammunition for pushing back against this injustice.

Among the topics covered in this policy brief are:

  • How patents reduce the risks and increase the rewards of investing in vaccine development;
  • How patents incentivize producing and distributing an abundant variety of COVID-19 medical products;
  • How lower vaccination rates in developing countries is not due to supply shortages;
  • How regulations, trade barriers, and a lack of infrastructure impedes vaccine distribution.

For more on this topic, see Adam Mossoff’s OCON lecture on Pandemics and Patents and his discussion with Ben Bayer titled “Responding to the Push to Violate Vaccine Patents” on New Ideal Live.


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