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Scientists, Lawyers Create Coronavirus IP Pledge

March 27, 2020, 9:52 PM

A group of scientists and lawyers are starting a new intellectual property pledge, hoping to spur companies and universities to release their IP in the fight against the coronavirus.

The project, “Open COVID Pledge,” which is set to be publicly rolled out March 30, aims is to boost cooperation and make IP widely available to end the coronavirus pandemic.

“The end goal is to get this IP released and usable by as many people as possible,” Jorge Contreras, a law professor at the University of Utah, said.

Under the pledge, companies and universities would give free licenses to their patents, copyrights and certain other property rights to anyone developing technologies for the diagnosis, prevention, or treatment of Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

These licenses would last until a year after the World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus pandemic to be over.

“This is not intended to have companies build a business off of other people’s patents,” Contreras said. It’s a “temporary emergency measure.”

Among those involved in the project are scientists from the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Cambridge, as well as a DLA Piper lawyer whose practice includes IP licensing, and the general counsel for the non-profit group Creative Commons. The group’s website lists 11 founders.

“Companies might be reluctant to do this if they thought they were the only ones, so the commitment provides a way for universities and companies to feel comfortable that they are not alone,” Stanford law professor Mark Lemley, who is also involved in the project, said in an email.

Some companies have already started to open up their IP. AbbVie said earlier this month it would allow the use of its rights related to Kaletra, an HIV drug that is being investigated as a potential treatment for coronavirus.

Contreras said the pharmaceutical industry appears interested in the pledge. The pledge founders are also hopeful that universities— which hold many important patents around fundamental discoveries and vaccines—will sign up.

Lemley said he hopes companies will see the importance of sharing research and materials. “I hope that they will not use IP as a tool to gain a competitive advantage in the short term at the expense of public health,” Lemley said.

· For additional legal resources, visit Bloomberg Law In Focus: Coronavirus (Bloomberg Law Subscription)

To contact the reporter on this story: Matthew Bultman in New York at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Roger Yu at; Keith Perine at