Is Suspending Intellectual Property Rights the Solution to Controlling the Covid19 Pandemic?

The economic and political worlds are facing a looming dilemma regarding the efforts put towards achieving the goals of global vaccination. Most recently, through the administration of present Biden, America announced its interest in supporting the proposition of waiving intellectual property rights (IPRs) that protect vaccinates and their medical innovation regarding Covid19 prevention (Lindsey, 2022). The Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement was reached under the World Trade Organization to increase the local production and access to vaccines. However, it, in turn, resulted in a fiery opposition from many rug production companies, alongside critics from multiple other disinterested observers who argued that the waiver is unnecessary since the patents placed on vaccine productions are not the obstacle to the relatively flagging drive for increasing availability of vaccines globally (Lindsey, 2022). The paper provides an overview of the debate and supports the maintenance of patents and other IPR protections on pharmaceutical innovation, including the Covid19 vaccines, using the Eli Lilly and Co case study.

            According to Mazzucato et al. (2021), Professor Mariana Mazzucato and Els Torreele argue that suspending intellectual property rights on medical products related to Covid19 is necessary to control the pandemic faster and completely. According to the experts, it is commendable how technological advancements have plaid a crucial role in the rapid creation of Covid19 vaccines (Mazzucato et al., 2021). The development demonstrates what can be achieved when the private sector’s involvement is pushed by human inventiveness and sufficient public support.

However, they argue that the effects of the invention remain relatively futile provided there are no measures of ensuring equitable distributions of the virus. An increased availability chasm is continuously decrementing and undermining the public health benefits that should be reaped from the innovation (Mazzucato et al., 2021). It leads to a state in which the rich countries have excess vaccines and medical product supply, with another substantial proportion of the country remaining unprotected. As a result, the world remains at a risk of prolonged pandemics unless the disparity is addressed. Therefore, the main solution is the provision of the people’s vaccine, which is affordable and available to all people. The goal is possible because it would be possible to mobilize sufficient capacities for production that would avail vaccines to everyone, only if IPR were not an obstacle.  

The proposition of STRIP waivers argues that even though countries such as America have more than enough vaccines for themselves, the pandemic is nowhere near its end. Most of the world remains unlucky, with the looming new virus variations in countries such as Indian and south Africa being cited as support for the argument (Lindsey, 2022). As a result, other jurisdictions, such as Australia, chose to keep their borders closed for a more extended period until they were sure they were not inviting more viral mutations to their country, despite having contained Covid19. No one would remain safe unless everyone is safe in the case of this pandemic.

A study argues that the disparity has part developed because of the behaviors of rich and developed countries buying more vaccines than enough (Rubin & Saidel, 2022). The disparity is also tied to the costs differences of the vaccines in relation to their production costs and the purchasing power of low-and-middle-income countries (LMCs). For example, the price of the vaccine sold by Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech producers is approximately $6.75, which translates to how much the Uganda health ministry spends on each citizen annually, as reported by the African Union (Rubin & Saidel, 2022). As a result, an injustice is noticed from the incongruity, essentially to the underserved populations, which demand innovations on ideas of lessening pricing and access barriers.

Suspending Intellectual Property Rights Is Not the Solution

However, other scholars are convinced that wavering intellectual property rights are not the solution, given that they are the basis for the system that led to the development of the science that led to the creation of those vaccines. Developing a relatively optimal solution to the global disparity in the distribution of Covid19 vaccines requires more moderations than waiving patents. Suspending intellectual rights is like removing the very incentive that gave birth to that incentive, as demonstrated by the Eli Lilly and Co case study.

Case Study Overview

            Eli Lilly and Co managed to create dominance in the pharmaceutical industry in America, with its success driven by its progress in the insulin market. Its success in DNA recombinant technology made the company’s sales rise until it held 80-85% of the almost $200Mn sales in the early 20th century, as diabetes diagnoses increased. However, there were shortages in the global supply of the animal pancreas needed to produce insulin, which risked creating a shortage amidst a rising demand, necessitating an innovative solution.

            Eli Lilly then made an open conference and posted their relatively difficult problems that required groups willing to experiment with insulin and offered payments for innovative solutions. The reward was worth the research, given the prestige that would come along with the invention, but the competition was a winner takes it all context. A race for development arose among the present significant researchers, with Eli Lilly keeping in touch with all participants to help navigate obstacles. The participants started recording progress fast, meeting a deadline that seemed impossible. The participants had to sign an agreement with other partners, to overcome obstacles, such as lab level clearance for their research progress. In the end, Eli Lilly got its solution and signed a contract with the participant who delivered an innovative solution, indicating that their goal was achieved faster than expected.

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Relation to Argument

            It is unanimous agreement that the best way to end the Covid19 pandemic and ensure that all people are safe is by getting the whole world vaccinated. It is also agreeable that such a goal would require higher levels of collaboration and subsequent investments from developed countries, such as Canada and America (McMurry, 2021). The availing of vaccines to everyone is a humanitarian and public health imperative. However, the nullification of the patents does not provide the solution but rather an illusion of the provision of a quick solution to the real challenges the developing world is facing. However, the opposite is true in reality (McMurry, 2021). The world can only contemplate the potential of overcoming the crisis because of the present technological advancements and the protection they receive from intellectual property rights. According to its risks and rewards, the rights create a sense of work for the innovation. They make the invention valuable to the innovator.

The reward that one expects to gain by merchandising their innovation and selling its products makes it worth the investment of resources and time. As demonstrated in the Eli Lilly case, if the company did not provide a reward system, there would not have been volunteers willing to invest their efforts and resources in experimenting with the new DNA recombinant technology. The company also announced the progress at each competition stage, which had four stages. As a result, the participants were motivated to put more effort and innovation. Without the reward, they would be discouraged. Similarly, patents’ protections are why companies were willing to undertake research and come up with a vaccine within a short time.

            IPRs are sets of policies that offer innovators special rights to prevent others from reproducing, licensing, or selling ideas, inventions, original works, or trademarks. Some critics do not see the impact of IPRs on innovation. They argue that there does not exist evidence that they increase or decrease productivity or innovation (McMurry, 2021). However, innovation occurs in competitive markets. The private sector understood the reward of being the first to produce and sell a vaccine for a global pandemic. Within two months of its announcement, companies like Moderna started their production. Others, such as Pfizer and BioNTech, teamed up; all characteristics are noticed when the reward system, provided by patents of the innovations, becomes the drive for innovation (McMurry, 2021).

Therefore, it can be argued that the proposition for suspending Intellectual rights for medical products related to Covid19 undermines the system that led to the production of the life-saving science from the start, as it led to the advanced insulin and DNA recombinant technology products that were archived by Eli Lilly and Company (McMurry, 2021). It discourages innovation by telling investors and other successful firms that the results of their hard work and effort in research would be appropriated to everyone and anyone globally and could potentially be used beyond the existence of the pandemic. Therefore, the action would destroy the incentive that would motivate companies to risk their investments to find solutions in case problems occur in the future. Licensing of inventions motivates turning early-stage promising discoveries into significantly tangible products (McMurry, 2021). The result of intellectual property rights increases productivity and provides legal grounds for global collaborations, which results in wins for the investors, patients, and economies. Therefore, licensing technology would allow companies to coordinate with others in developing countries and hence get the vaccines to everyone, rather than abrogating patents.


Lindsey, B. (2022, March 9). Why intellectual property and pandemics don’t mix. Brookings. Retrieved April 14, 2022, from

Mazzucato , M., Torreele , E., & Ghosh, J. (2021, April 20). Mariana Mazzucato, Jayati Ghosh, and Els Torreele on waiving covid patents. The Economist. Retrieved April 14, 2022, from

McMurry, M. (2021, April 22). Michelle McMurry-Heath on maintaining intellectual property amid covid-19. The Economist. Retrieved April 14, 2022, from

Rubin, H., & Saidel, N. (2022, March 9). Innovation beyond patent waivers: Achieving global vaccination goals through public-private partnerships. Brookings. Retrieved April 14, 2022, from

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