Universities and Tech Companies Pledge to Allow Free IP for COVID-19 Uses

Various technology companies and universities have united, agreeing to make intellectual property available at no cost for use in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies including Intel, Mozilla, and Creative Commons, as well as universities like Stanford and American University’s law schools, have signed the Open COVID Pledge agreeing to make their intellectual property available for certain uses. The hope is allowing free access to IP will help organizations develop medicines and vaccines to aid with the pandemic.

A press release from the Open COVID Pledge says, “with the number of people afflicted with COVID-19 surging past 1 million, thousands dying of COVID-19 every day, and the situation likely to worsen in the coming months, an international coalition of legal experts, engineers and scientists are calling on companies, universities and other organizations to make their intellectual property (IP) temporarily available free of charge for use in ending the COVID-19 pandemic and minimizing the impact of the disease.”

Stanford Law Processor Mark Lemley, a founding member of the initiative, said “Our aim is to boost cooperation and make IP widely available to end the coronavirus pandemic. Companies, institutions, and universities would give free licenses to their patents, copyrights, and certain other property rights to anyone developing technologies for the diagnosis, prevention, or treatment of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.”

Lemley said the licenses would last until a year after the pandemic is declared over by the World Health Organization. He said this would give everyone access to the technology needed to mass-produce items to help with COVID-19 including masks and ventilators. Lemley said he hopes this pledge will encourage more companies to join the effort instead of using the pandemic to gain a competitive advantage.

“This is not a permanent grant of rights, but a temporary measure to make sure that we aren’t restricting research, testing, or treatment during the pandemic,” Lemley said. The Open COVID Pledge provides a model license that companies can use but also allows them to join and write their own license that fits their specific situation.

Intel is one of the first companies to sign the pledge, committing over 72,000 patents for use. Steve Rodgers, Intel’s General Counsel, said, “Scientists and researchers need the freedom to make COVID-19 innovations and inventions without the threat of being sued by intellectual property owners.” He encouraged others to join the pledge, those who join before April 21st will be considered founding adopters. Several other companies had already made similar pledges to allow the use of their IP.

“The Open COVID Pledge is an ideal way for companies across the board to help combat the pandemic; we are optimistic that Intel’s participation will lead the way for other high tech leaders to join this effort,” said University of Utah professor Jorge Contreras.