Tech Giants In Japan Join Free COVID-19 IP Pledge

By Tiffany Hu
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Law360 (May 7, 2020, 6:27 PM EDT) -- Canon, Toyota and other Japan-based tech companies announced on Thursday that they will be making their intellectual property free to use for efforts to stop the COVID-19 pandemic, with an eye toward working with U.S. tech titans who recently agreed to do the same.

The Japanese companies have pledged not to enforce their patents, copyrights and other intellectual property rights against activities relating to the "diagnosis, prevention containment and treatment of COVID-19," according to a press release.

Other founders of the Japan-based initiative include Ajinomoto Co. Inc., Nissan, Yahoo Japan, Chanel GK and Kyoto University's Center for Genomic Medicine. The initiative will last until the World Health Organization determines the novel coronavirus is no longer an international health emergency, the release states.

The announcement comes after Amazon, Facebook and other U.S. tech giants signed onto the Open COVID Pledge, which urges universities, companies and other intellectual property owners to grant free and temporary licenses for use of their technologies in the fight against COVID-19 until a year after the WHO declares the pandemic over.

GenoConcierge Kyoto Inc. founder and CEO Hisao Yamasaki, who serves as secretary of the Japan-based initiative, told Law360 in an email Thursday that he was communicating with Stanford Law School professor Mark A. Lemley on a possible collaboration.

Yamasaki added that he was also "reaching out to companies in Europe, China, Taiwan and Korea to assemble a global group of patent owners to support our pledge."

Lemley, a founding member of the U.S. group, lauded the parallel effort in Japan, telling Law360 on Thursday that "the commitments in the pledge and the declaration are compatible, and we intend to cross-list declaring companies."

In a statement, Canon executive officer Hideki Sanatake said the founders believed that stopping the pandemic "as swiftly as possible calls for a new kind of cooperation between industry, government and academia, that breaks the molds of traditional models."

"We believe that, in the current climate, patent, design, copyright and other intellectual property rights should not interfere with the deployment of these critical items," Sanatake said.

--Additional reporting by Mike LaSusa and Britain Eakin. Editing by JoVona Taylor.

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