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A number of organizations, including Intel, Mozilla, and Creative Commons, have joined the Open COVID Pledge, an effort led by legal experts and scientists to make intellectual property (IP) available for the fight against COVID-19. The aim is to bolster cooperation in pursuit of an end to the coronavirus pandemic. To support that goal, companies, institutions, and universities will 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 licenses in question are effective from December 1, 2019 and will last until a year after the World Health Organization declares the pandemic to be over. Companies who make the pledge must adopt the Open COVID license, create a custom license that accomplishes the intent of the pledge, or identify existing licenses that support the pledge’s goal.

According to Mark Lemley, director of the Stanford University program in law, science, and technology, the COVID Pledge is intended to prevent researchers and entrepreneurs from being sued for tools they create during the pandemic. Once things return to normal, the hope is that companies will work together to come up with commercially reasonable license terms, but they’ll also be able to reassert their intellectual property rights if they choose.

“While we have written a model license anyone can use, many universities and companies have their own license language and terms, and that’s fine. We are encouraging them to commit to the pledge, and they can do that while implementing the pledge with their own license terms,” said Lemley in a statement.

To date, the Open COVID Pledge has received expressions of support from organizations that include DLA Piper, Unified Patents, the Idea Laboratory for Intellectual Property, Fabricatorz Foundation, Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, the University of Utah S. J. Quinney College of Law, and the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property at American University Washington College of Law.

Creative Commons says it will continue to work with these and other experts to create a framework that allows the development of diagnostic tools, treatment, and preventative solutions — and possibly even a cure or vaccine — to halt the spread of COVID-19.

“We are … giving COVID-19 scientists and researchers free access to Intel’s vast worldwide intellectual property portfolio — one of the world’s largest — in the hope and belief that making this intellectual property freely available to them will save lives,” said Intel executive vice president and general counsel Steven Rodgers in a blog post. “We will continue to invent — and protect — our intellectual property, but we offer it freely to those working to protect people from this pandemic.”

Intel separately announced this morning that it would donate $50 million in cash and resources to anti-coronavirus efforts.

Updated on April 23 at 2:37 p.m. PT: Uber announced that it has joined the Open COVID Pledge, following on the heels of Amazon, Facebook, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM, Microsoft, and Sandia National Laboratories announced they’ve joined the Open COVID Pledge a few days earlier.


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