The Open COVID Pledge – an IP licensing program

Open COVID Pledge

In these times, we all have a responsibility to do our part in the current pandemic. This could be simply staying home, maintaining good respiratory hygiene and washing hands frequently. Some major tech innovators around the world have an even greater share of responsibility as key intellectual property and niche manufacturing capabilities can provide a positive impact in the current battle against COVID-19. The commitment we have seen from the tech industry in general is strong. There is something called the Open COVID Pledge; an IP licensing program that the likes of Intel Mozilla, Creative Commons and other big players and main universities have either joined or endorsed.

The Open COVID Pledge is a call to action from founding members to make critical IP available to other companies and individuals in an attempt to motivate innovation and relax the restrictions of IP access and research, so that new tools to fight COVID-19 can be developed. Mark Lemley, a law professor at Stanford University says “Our aim is to boost cooperation and make IP widely available to end the coronavirus pandemic. Companies, institutions, 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 a permanent grant of rights, but a temporary measure to make sure that we aren’t restricting research, testing, or treatment during the pandemic.

These are not permanent free licenses that are being provided, however, the intent after the pandemic is over, is that the parties that took part, will go back to owning the IP on a commercial level but will also make new and more flexible future licensing agreements. In addition, the Open COVID Pledge has written a model free IP license that businesses are able to utilise. Participating firms can even draft their own. Details on making the pledge can be found here.

Intel have also pledged an additional $50 million for researchers, hospitals and schools to support Coronavirus relief. This ranges from online learning initiatives to investment in partners for vaccine development, diagnosis treatment and key enablers like AI.  It is both pleasing and encouraging to find names like Intel behind the Open COVID Pledge, as they open their substantial IP portfolio and subsequent direct injection of capital. It is a blatant call to action that hopefully others in the tech industry will follow suit in.

Other tech leaders are also stepping up. 5G wireless innovators Qualcomm have recently put up $1 million for a COVID-19 research fund in San Diego. Adaptable computing firm bellwether Xilinx contributed $1.1M to the World Health Organisation Solidarity Response and Silicon Valley Strong Funds, as well as UCSF’s COVID-19 Response Fund.

In the gaming community, NVIDIA has called out to PC Gamers to help combat the virus by using its GPUs for protein Folding At Home, when they are not gaming. Folding@home is a distributed computing project for performing molecular dynamics simulations of protein dynamics. NVIDIA is also offering free access to its infrastructure for research with its Parabricks genome-sequencing software. This software and service is motivated by NVIDIA technology and partners with Oracle, NetApp, Core Scientific and Tencent Cloud.

There is also Maingear Computers and their exotic performance computer builders, located in the United States. They have a strong following of PC enthusiasts and have taken it upon themselves to design and build a new desktop box called the LIV Ventilator. This can be produced in volume and at a fraction of the cost of a traditional ventilator. Maingear is adapting its manufacturing space to scale-up for the mass productions of LIV. There is a massive outpouring of support and help from the tech industry, from big corporations to small businesses. It is both heart-warming and reassuring.