Patent holders urged to take “Open COVID Pledge” for quicker end to pandemic

April 7, 2020, 5 pm EDT

For Immediate Release

An international coalition of scientists and lawyers is calling on organizations to make their intellectual property freely available for the fight against COVID-19.

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.

“These unprecedented times call for creativity and generous sharing of knowledge,” says Jennifer Doudna, Executive Director of the Innovative Genomics Institute of UC Berkeley and UCSF, who pledged to make their COVID-19 IP freely available. “Enabling individuals and organizations across the world to work on solutions together, without impediments, is the quickest way to end this pandemic.”

Intel Corporation, the world’s leading semiconductor and electronics manufacturer, has signed onto the Pledge, committing its global portfolio of over 72,000 patents to the fight against COVID-19.  Intel’s General Counsel, Steve Rodgers, says “Scientists and researchers need the freedom to make Covid-19 innovations and inventions without the threat of being sued by intellectual property owners.  For that reason, we are giving Covid-19 scientists and researchers free access to Intel’s vast worldwide intellectual property portfolio – one of the world’s largest – in the hope and belief that making this intellectual property freely available to them will save lives.  Intel is proud to join the Open COVID Pledge as a founding sponsor. On behalf of Intel employees around the world, and especially our inventors who have worked so hard to create Intel’s intellectual property, we encourage intellectual property holders around the world to join us in this pledge.”

Jorge Contreras, a professor at the University of Utah and an expert on patent pledges, says “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.”

We encourage other organizations to consider whether they can join the pledge and help address the COVID-19 pandemic by making relevant IP available without charge for public use for related activities.

“The last thing people rushing to figure out how to prevent, treat, and stop this pandemic need is to worry about who owns what IP,” said Dr. Michael Eisen, Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology and HHMI investigator at UC Berkeley. “If everyone signs the Open COVID Pledge, they can focus on the immense challenges in front of us, and change the course of the pandemic.”

The effort has received critical backing from groups dedicated to removing legal barriers to sharing. Diane Peters, the General Counsel of Creative Commons, one of these supporters, adds “It’s critical that relevant scientific resources are made available to anyone in the world to use and build upon in the fight against COVID-19. Creative Commons is especially eager to engage with our global network to spread the word about this effort and garner robust international support for this approach.”

The Pledge has received public expressions of support from highly regarded organizations around the world including Mozilla, Creative Commons, Unified Patents, Fabricatorz Foundation, the Idea Laboratory for Intellectual Property in Bogota, Colombia, Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital), the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE), the Stanford Program in Law, Science, and Technology, the Center for Law and the Biosciences at the University of Utah, the Health Law and Policy Institute of the University of Houston, and the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property at American University, among others.

This approach complements other efforts such as the Wellcome Trust pledge on free sharing of research results and data, appeals to the World Health Organization to create a voluntary patent pool, and the growing number of open source COVID-19 solutions. Several organizations have already made similar pledges, most recently the US pharmaceutical company AbbVie, which last week waived worldwide restrictions on manufacturing its Lopinavir/Ritonavir HIV combination drug as a treatment for COVID-19. In addition, Medtronics and UK based SMITHS group have released ventilator design files and manufacturing guidance under a permissive license. In addition, Stanford, MIT and Harvard Universities today announced a similar pledge of intellectual property in support of the fight against COVID-19.

To facilitate the implementation of the Open COVID Pledge, the coalition has also created an Open COVID License, available on the website, which provides legal language allowing organizations to permit the application of their IP to COVID-19 for the duration of the pandemic. In promoting a voluntary commitment, the Open COVID Pledge differs from compulsory licensing measures that some countries have taken or proposed. 

Mark Radcliffe, a partner at the international law firm DLA Piper and one of the organizers of the project, notes that “The Open COVID Pledge is in the collaborative spirit of ‘open source’ which has been so successful for software.” 

Mark Lemley, a law professor at Stanford University who helped develop the Open COVID Pledge, says, “It is in everybody’s interest to end this pandemic as quickly as possible. We hope that other organizations will join these Founding Adopters in ensuring that their IP can be part of the solution.” 

The international coalition behind the Open COVID Pledge is calling upon the world to come together and prioritize global health. Any organization that wants to adopt the Pledge should visit for more information. Organizations that adopt the Pledge by April 21st will be considered Founding Adopters.

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Advance coverage:

Bloomberg: Scientists, Lawyers Create Coronavirus IP Pledge 

Law360: Businesses Urged To Make COVID-19 IP Free During Crisis 

IAM: No strings Covid-19 IP pledge initiative underlines delicate balance biopharma businesses must strike 

World IP Review: COVID-19 ‘pledge’ urges rights owners to share IP

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