The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the world as we know it every day. It is more important than ever to stop the spread of COVID-19 and find treatments for those affected. There must be access to potentially lifesaving technologies in order to combat this disease. To this end, several companies and other IP owners are permitting their IP assets to temporarily be used free of charge.

Open COVID Pledge

The Open COVID Pledge invites owners of IP to grant royalty-free and temporary licenses to use their IP for the prevention, treatment and diagnosis of COVID-19 without the fear of legal ramifications. Companies who have joined the Open COVID Pledge include Intel, Microsoft, Amazon, IBM, Facebook, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Medtronic PLC.

The first step is the company making a pledge to make their intellectual property available free of charge for use in ending the COVID-19 pandemic and minimizing the impact of the disease. Then, the company provides a license agreement that details the terms and conditions under which their IP is available. Accordingly, each company can craft their own license agreement or use a template Open COVID License provided by the site. In general, the licensing agreements can remain in effect until a year after the World Health Organization (WHO) declares the COVID-19 pandemic to be over.

COVID-19 Technology Access Framework

The COVID-19 Technology Access Framework is another model allowing the use of non-exclusive and royalty-free licenses of IP aimed at fighting the COVID-19 epidemic. This model is similar to the Open COVID Pledge. The model is designed to incentivize the rapid utilization of available technologies that may be useful for preventing, diagnosing and treating COVID-19 infection. In return for the royalty-free licenses, the members are asking the licensees to distribute any resulting products as cheaply and widely as possible to allow for broad accessibility during the term of the license.

Major research universities such as Harvard University; Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); Stanford University; Yale University; Cornell University; Ohio State University; Oregon State University; Georgetown University; University of South Alabama; Virginia Commonwealth University; University of Arkansas; and the University of Nevada, Reno are all part of the Framework. New research institutions are joining the Framework every day.

Licensing Guidelines from AUTM

The Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) issued similar COVID-19 licensing guidelines. Accordingly, these guidelines have been adopted by over 60 universities and research institutions. Signatories include Yale University, MIT, Princeton University, Vanderbilt University, Caltech, University of Michigan and Harvard.

In conclusion, it is nice to see so many large institutions work together to battle this virus. Pledging IP assets in the short term will not only help to eradicate the virus but will also likely boost these companies’ brands in the long term.

Michele Lawson

Michele Lawson is a U.S. Registered Patent Attorney.