Intel, Universities Support Freeing Up IP To Fight COVID-19

By Dani Kass
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Law360 (April 8, 2020, 10:36 PM EDT) -- The push to free up intellectual property to fight the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to expand, with Intel and Medtronic, key research universities and others offering up their IP, and as United Nations officials support putting the health emergency over patent rights.

Intel Corp. general counsel Steven Rodgers on Tuesday said the company would be opening up its massive patent portfolio to scientists and researchers working to battle COVID-19. It's doing so as part of the Open COVID Pledge, which invites universities, companies and other owners of IP to grant free and temporary licenses to use their patented and copyrighted technologies in the fight against the novel coronavirus without fear of legal ramifications.

According to a Tuesday update from Open COVID, Intel has more than 72,000 patents.

"Scientists and researchers need the freedom to make COVID-19 innovations and inventions without the threat of being sued by intellectual property owners," Rodgers said.

Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University also agreed Tuesday to let their IP be used, albeit not as part of Open COVID. Their joint COVID-19 Technology Access Framework "sets a model by which critically important technologies that may help prevent, diagnose, or treat COVID-19 infections may be deployed for the greatest public benefit without delay," according to a statement. 

The Innovative Genomics Institute of UC Berkeley and the University of California, San Francisco has also offered up its IP.

"These unprecedented times call for creativity and generous sharing of knowledge," said the IGI's executive director Jennifer Doudna, whose team helped develop CRISPR technology, which has been used to modify genetic material for medicine and other purposes. "Enabling individuals and organizations across the world to work on solutions together, without impediments, is the quickest way to end this pandemic."

Open COVID also highlighted similar work from other companies, including Medtronic PLC and SMITHS Group PLC releasing ventilator design files and manufacturing guidance using a permissive license. Medtronic on March 30 made clear that this was only for COVID-19-related use.

The company noted that it has created a prewritten license to make it easier for companies to also offer their IP.

Also this week, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he supports a proposal from Costa Rican president Carlos Alvarado and Health Minister Daniel Salas, which would "to create a pool of rights to tests, medicines and vaccines, with free access or licensing on reasonable and affordable terms for all countries."

"We are working with Costa Rica to finalize the details," the director-general said Monday.

The head of the UN's World Intellectual Property Organization, Francis Gurry, also threw his support behind Costa Rica, saying during times like this, safety "trumps everything," according to Reuters.

--Additional reporting by Britain Eakin. Editing by Adam LoBelia.

Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify that Stanford, MIT and Harvard are not part of the Open COVID Pledge. 

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