As the world collectively bands together in the fight against COVID-19, intellectual property issues are simultaneously surging alongside the crisis. Without the immediate benefit of time to deal with infringement claims in a court of law, many problems are instead being hashed out in real time… and even settled in the court of public opinion.
Pharmaceutical Companies Feeling Pressure to Share Patents for The Public Good
A report in the Financial Times recently outlined how pharmaceutical companies are feeling pressure by the World Health Organization to voluntarily give up their patent rights so that competitors can help develop universal treatments, testing kits, and vaccines for COVID-19. This proposed “coronavirus pool” would then collectively give pharmaceutical companies the ability to lower prices across the board and make treatments more accessible to patients. A similar pharmaceutical “pool” was created to deal with the HIV crisis in the 80s and 90s.
3-D Printing ‘Volunteers’ Face IP Roadblocks
The nationwide shortage in protective gear for healthcare workers has mobilized those who are skilled at 3-D printing, including teenagers and young adults, to help manufacture much-needed equipment like these plastic face shields. While some companies, like Medtronic, have been willing to share their IP to allow others to help fill gaps in production, others have publicly threatened to sue coronavirus volunteers for patent infringement. In the case of the latter example, the public backlash for threatening volunteers with court action has been extreme and severe. In a pandemic when everyone is setting aside their own wants and needs for the public good, the lesson to be learned is, just because you can legally do something, does not mean that you should.
Copyright Concerns for Teachers and Librarians
With 80% of the United States under “stay at home” orders, teachers and librarians are utilizing social media platforms like YouTube to share educational lessons and read stories to their students. However, many are finding that their videos are being flagged and even removed on YouTube for copyright infringement.
One might think that reading a story online would be “fair use” of a copyright, but the law is murky in this area. It could be argued that reading to kids on camera is a public performance, which is a right exclusively given to the copyright holder. In that sense, a teacher or librarian would need permission to perform storytime and broadcast it online. Whether a copyright holder pushes the issue and sues an educator for doing this is another story. In the meantime, we may continue to see videos flagged and ultimately taken down until this plays out in court.
Have Your Own Intellectual Property Questions?
The extraordinary times we find ourselves in are creating extraordinary intellectual property issues that rights holders or the general public may not have the benefit of time to deal with in a traditional sense. If you find yourself faced with an IP dilemma, we are here to help guide you through the issue and any potential consequences that may arise. If you’d like to schedule a phone or video conference, simply call 888-666-0062.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney.