Putting Pledged IP to work — Identifying IP available under the Open COVID Pledge

Today, the Open COVID Pledge launched a new feature highlighting some of the valuable intellectual property (IP) that organizations around the world have committed to the fight against Covid-19.  Pledged IP covers a broad range of equipment, software, network and device applications useful in healthcare, containment, tracking, diagnostics, emergency response and social distancing.  It includes 3D-printed respirators, touch screens that use ultraviolet light to prevent the spread of infection, a Wi-Fi enabled floating hospital, methods for designing grocery stores to ensure social distancing, a low-cost, single-use ventilator, software for accelerating disease diagnosis, algorithms for routing emergency vehicles through traffic, a drive-up booth for Covid-19 testing, and much more. The Open COVID Pledge offers a platform that enables holders of patents and copyrights to commit these assets to the fight against Covid-19 on a royalty-free basis.  The Pledge, which was launched in April, has attracted some of the world’s largest patent holders – firms like IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Facebook, Fujitsu and Uber that collectively hold hundreds of thousands of patents around the world.  A similar effort in Japan boasts more than 75 firms that have pledged close to one million patents worldwide.

While this outpouring of support is encouraging, it also raises an important question concerning the design and implementation of large-scale, collective IP pledges like these: how can a potential user learn what IP is available to use? With more than a million patents currently pledged, and the number growing every week, potential users are faced with an embarrassment of riches.

Prior research has shown that collective pledge efforts that simply publish patent lists seldom result in follow-on innovation, dissemination or use of pledged technologies. In discussing the Pledge, Professor Colleen Chien notes in a recent blog post that it is essential to provide contextual information about the products to which such patents pertain.

As a result, one of the goals of the Open COVID Pledge has always been to offer tangible examples of how pledged technology can be used in the field.  It is hoped that these examples will inspire and enable healthcare professionals, manufacturers and members of the public around the world to take advantage of this unique opportunity to help in the fight against the pandemic without the imminent threat of an intellectual property lawsuit.  We encourage anyone who makes use of pledged IP to let us know about it at opencovidpledge@gmail.com.

In addition, Stockholm-based IPScreener has created a freely searchable database of all patents that have been pledged under the Open COVID Pledge.  Using sophisticated AI technology, IPScreener enables users to construct natural language searches of the more than 250,000 patents pledged to date, and will be updated continuously as additional patents are pledged.  The Open COVID Coalition is delighted that IPScreener is offering this free service to the public and hope that it will help interested users to identify patents that may be of use in combating Covid-19.