Opinions and Editorials

May. 23, 2020

Townhall: Gutting Patent Protections Won’t Cure COVID-19 by Adam Mossoff

To ensure that coronavirus vaccines and treatments are “available at a price affordable to all people,” Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky and several other House Democrats recently proposed a radical solution to the coronavirus pandemic — commandeer any lifesaving, yet-to-be-created drug or vaccine and allow the government to set “reasonable” prices.

Although this may sound like it would benefit people, it would be a disaster for patients. Intellectual property protections aren’t a barrier to care. Just the opposite. They’re responsible for the most revolutionary medical innovations in human history — from cures for cancer to treatments for diabetes and hepatitis. And they’re our best hope of ending this pandemic.

Patents enable companies to sell their drugs and licenses to other companies to make those drugs without copycat competition for a limited time. Without such protections, there’d be little incentive for private companies and investors to dedicate hundreds of billions of dollars to the scientists at the cutting edge of biomedical research. Other companies would freeload off of these innovators’ hard work and reap the fruits of their labor.

This isn’t a new insight. The Founding Fathers understood that intellectual property rights were essential to the growth and success of the country, empowering Congress in the Constitution to secure this “exclusive right” to inventors. They placed the government’s power to protect patents on par with creating federal courts, declaring war, and creating an army and navy.

President Abraham Lincoln even recognized the importance of the patent system — it “added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius.”