U.S. plays it tough on copyright rules affecting needed drugs
By Brian Knowlton, International Herald Tribune
Monday, October 3, 2005 - Exerpts
The United States collides with its allies on many issues these
days, from waging war in Iraq to failing to sign the Kyoto Pro-
tocol on global warming. But one area where the Bush administra-
tion is aggressively pursuing a policy that will have effects
for decades to come is little discussed: the enforcement of
So determined is the United States to strengthen copyright and
patent protection that it is, in effect, exporting its own stan-
dards through free trade agreements reached with countries or
regions as diverse as Australia, Singapore and Central America.
In the process of defending the lucrative exporting of American
ideas and U.S. rules on who owns what and for how long, Washing-
ton seems prepared even to offend its allies.
In essence, a country where the state determines the cost of
drugs is now more beholden to protect the rights of U.S. pharma-
ceutical companies to drugs pioneered and patented in America.
the Bush administration appears to have grown increasingly frus-
trated with slow international procedures and has turned to
trade agreements as an alternative means of energetic enforce-
ment. Washington now routinely tries to negotiate U.S.-level
protections for pharmaceutical products as well.
"The United States is unique among Western, highly industrial-
ized countries in being so uniquely focused on IP rights without
thinking at all about IP duties.
"What is the limit to intellectual property rights?" "No one in
industry wants to ask, 'Where's the proper balance?"' And yet
economists acknowledge that "there must be a point at which in-
tellectual property rights have gone too far."
But trade negotiations can provide potent leverage for the
United States when dealing with countries which seek closer
Mendenhall of the U.S. trade representative's office said,
"Strong IP protection brings investment into the market."
The question with protections of pharmaceutical restrictions, is
whether the protection of first world industries, advanced with
first world clout, works to the detriment of at least some in
developing countries. One reason advanced for the failure of
poor African nations to treat AIDS victims, for example, has
been the high cost of patented drugs, and the reluctance or
downright opposition of pharmaceutical companies to the substi-
tution of much cheaper generic drugs manufactured in countries
like Brazil or India.