Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) is not happy with United States Trade Representative Susan Schwab ’76 for bending to the House’s unexplained and quixotic desire to weaken IP protection in free-trade agreements with certain South American countries:

My opposition to the Peru FTA is rooted entirely in the agreement reached by the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) with members of the other body in May of this year. That agreement forced the U.S. to renegotiate the Peru, Panama, and Colombia FTAs to add new requirements for labor and environmental protections and weakened traditional trade agreement protections for certain U.S. intellectual property (IP) related to pharmaceutical products.

I am concerned about the labor and environment provisions, but I am simply puzzled by the intellectual property changes. I am not sure what my colleagues hoped to gain by weakening standard protections for U.S. intellectual property through this trade agreement. I see no reason why U.S. legislators would want to weaken the ordinary protections that are normally accorded to pharmaceutical intellectual property in our bilateral trade agreements. Peru did not, in the course of negotiations, ask us to weaken the IP requirements. Peru was perfectly willing to abide by the greater protections of the original FTA.

If the goal of these changes was to provide better access to life-saving medicines in Peru, I worry that their effect could have the exact opposite result. Countries with weaker IP protections will have a difficult time encouraging U.S. companies to do business there. Respect for private property-including intellectual property-is essential to encouraging innovation. Without assurances that new and creative products and services will not be stolen by unscrupulous competitors or forcibly devalued by governments, there is a reduced incentive to take the economic risks that are necessary to achieve groundbreaking inventions.

I continue to hope, albeit in vain to date, that Williams would be able to get some of its notable alumni involved in intellectual property (Schwab, Chief Judge Paul Redmond Michel ’63, DHTK ’58 come to mind) together for a panel discussion on some aspect of patent law from their different institutional perspectives.

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