Since the beginning of the coronavirus emergency, both large and small companies have combined talents and found creative ways to combat the crisis and the virus. Some of these are obvious: pharmaceutical companies and biotechnology firms sharing medical and gene patents to develop vaccines. Some are less obvious: software developers and programmers trading ideas as remote connectivity becomes a daily need.
Many think of software or computer programs when regarding intellectual property. The concept of having intellectual property first entered the mainstream in the 1990s, as litigation over rights to computer platforms became commonplace. Nearly anything that is not a tangible property can be considered "intellectual property," including ideas, genetic sequences, drug formulas, trademarks, and copyrights. Intellectual property is subject to the same contract protections as any other property. It can be challenging to prove and protect an idea as unique and proprietary, since another scientist or developer within the same field may independently develop the same idea.
Some mechanisms for sharing intellectual property for the benefit of all already exist.
A consortium of major corporations, including Microsoft, Amazon, Intel, and Sandia Laboratories, have formed the Open COVID Pledge, a promise to share among one another without reservation any technologies needed to address the current emergency. Each company is allowed to create its license, which embodies the Pledge, but licenses its technology to the others, under terms similar to the Open Source and Patent Pool agreements already available today.
Risks and Concerns to Small Businesses
Smaller companies that seek to take advantage of open-source agreements need to tread cautiously in the market, mainly because someday the crisis will end.
Intellectual property will likely be the driving force that propels us out of the current emergency. Sharing ideas and concepts is the best way to ensure our nation recovers. Still, foresight and a little assistance from a skilled attorney in drafting the proposal and license will ensure the company can reap the benefits after recovery is reached.
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