Open COVID Pledge: accessing intellectual property

The Open COVID Pledge has been launched to make intellectual property available free of charge for use in ending the coronavirus pandemic and minimising the impact of the disease. In this article, Serjeants’ expert team of patent and trade mark attorneys provides further information on what the Open COVID Pledge entails.

IP rights

Intellectual property rights give the owner of the right exclusive use of the relevant intellectual property. This could mean an invention protected by a patent, a design protected by a registered design, a brand name protected by a registered trade mark, or a copyright work. Intellectual property is infringed when it is used by a third party without the consent of the owner. The owner of the IP can then take legal action against the infringer to stop the infringement.

However, in response to the current global pandemic, the ‘Open COVID Pledge’ has been launched, allowing companies to make clear that their intellectual property is freely available in the fight against COVID-19.

The Open COVID Pledge explained

Signing this pledge provides an open licence for third parties to use the signatory’s intellectual property for the sole purpose of diagnosing, preventing, containing, and treating COVID-19. The licence will last until one year after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declares the end of the pandemic, or until 1 January 2023 – whichever is earlier. Uses relating to anything over than COVID-19 remains an infringement.

With enough signatories, this pledge could play a key role in allowing treatments, diagnostic tests, and perhaps even a vaccine to be developed. For instance, if an existing patented pharmaceutical is found to be efficacious in the treatment of COVID-19, then, if the patentee is a signatory to the Open COVID Pledge, that treatment could be used in the short-term without fear of infringement. In many cases, it will also remove the need to pay a costly licence fee or source the treatment from the patent holder.

Chances of success

Ultimately, the success or failure of the pledge will depend upon getting enough signatories and by the right organisations. So far, Amazon, Facebook, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), IBM, Microsoft, and Sandia National Laboratories have all announced that they are joining the pledge, making all of their patents freely available to the public for use in the fight against COVID-19.

Any individual, institution, company and other organisation that holds intellectual property rights can make the pledge; however, for organisations, the pledgor must have the legal authority to commit the organisation. Further information on how you or your business could support the Open COVID Pledge can be found here.

If you have any queries regarding the Open COVID Pledge, or about intellectual property matter, please get in touch with the Serjeants team on 0116 233 2626 or send an enquiry here.