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New US threat to cut off WHO funding

By Peter Hulm

The US Commission on the theft of American (= U.S.) Intellectual Property has recommended the Administration threaten to cut off funding for the World Health Organization, worth an estimated $350 million.

"Yet another terrible proposal, guided by the heavy hand of self-interest," comments Tim Cushing of Techdirt on 31 May 2013. "It plainly spells out the commission's priorities: American IP above all else, even the health and well-being of other nations."

The proposal: threaten a cut-off unless WHO certification of national regulatory agencies includes attestation that IP protection is part of the process.

It even suggests ganging up with nations like Japan against WHO.

The commission hasn't yet formally endorsed the proposal, "possibly because it will make everyone involved look like a bunch of greedy meatbags who value their profits over the health of the developing world," suggests Cushing. It is, he notes, "hidden towards the bottom of the report".

How on earth did it get so far? Possibly because the Commission did not recognize that American for US is a form of intellectual property theft.

For the incredulous, here is the relevant text:

From page 83:

Recommend to Congress and the administration that U.S. funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) program budget in whole or in part be withheld until (1) the WHO's process of certifying national regulatory agencies includes attestation that IP protection is an essential part of the regulatory evaluation process, and (2) the WHO refrains from prequalifying any product until the regulating agency of jurisdiction demonstrates and certifies that it does not violate IP rights. An additional approach - carrot approach - would be to have a specified WHO contribution by the U.S. government, in addition to current funding, that would be dedicated to developing, implementing, and evaluating the above improvements to the regulatory and prequalification processes.

The U.S. government has leverage at the WHO chiefly because of its financial support, which consists of annual â??means testedâ?? contributions to the WHO's program budget and 'voluntary' contributions whose total value is about $350 million. This support from the United States can be a carrot or a stick to influence the WHO's actions.

Multilateral coordination may also be possible. For example, the IP of Japanese-developed medicine is frequently stolen, and Japanâ??s current annual and voluntary contributions to the WHO total over $70 million.

The Commission believes this recommendation has strong promise but is not ready to endorse it. To be acted upon, this recommendation requires careful assessment of the likely impacts and the potential for unintended consequences. It will be essential to ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable across the world continue to have access to life-saving, high-quality health interventions, now and in the future. In fact, IP protections are vital to that outcome, because they preserve incentives for innovation and foster predictable markets for manufacturers. Developing consensus around the policy solution among policymakers and manufacturers, particularly regarding the source of any additional funding, will be the necessary next step.


IP Commission Report


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