April 01, 2020

Should Your Company Grant a Free License to Your Company's Intellectual Property in Response to the COVID-19 Emergency?

2 min

Companies, and their lawyers, go to great lengths to protect their intellectual property (IP)—as they should. But now a new trend may be coming: granting a free license, in limited duration, to help with the COVID-19 battle. Medtronic plc announced on Monday, March 30, 2020 that it is publicly sharing the design specifications for the Puritan Bennett™ 560 (PB 560) ventilator so that participants across different industries are able to evaluate options for rapid ventilator manufacturing to help with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also on Monday, March 30, 2020, a group of scientists, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and individuals who describe themselves as "working to promote the removal of obstacles involving intellectual property in the fight against COVID-19" has launched the "Open COVID Pledge." The Open COVID Pledge asks that individuals, institutions, companies, and other organizations that hold intellectual property rights (specifically patents and copyrights) pledge to allow others to use their intellectual property, free of charge, in the fight against COVID-19. There are two components to the pledge: (1) the IP owner makes the "pledge," which is a statement that the entity wishes to share its intellectual property for the purposes of ending and mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic, and (2) a free, and time-limited license. There is a "standard" license available online already that an entity can agree to, or the licensing entity is free to use its own license, as many companies are likely to prefer.

Granting such a license is a bold step. It may be that your company would be willing to grant such a license but prefers to grant a customized license with the assistance of your legal counsel. Or you may be seeking rights from another entity for an endeavor you wish to undertake in the COVID-19 battle. Be sure to consider the issues relevant to your business and enlist counsel as appropriate.