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Japanese Companies’ Contribution against COVID-19 by IPs
It is known that IP rights are used to challenge competitors so as to keep them in check or for the monopolizing technologies. However, the current adverse situations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have brought change to the way Japanese companies think. Through the need to develop and manufacture therapeutic medicines, vaccines, medical devices, infection prevention products to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in the current situation through swift and unconventional ways, many Japanese companies have been taking actions to release their own patents under the “OPEN COVID-19 DECLARATION (OCD)” project.
There are 90 companies who have announced their involvement in the OCD and there are over 910,000 patents available for use (as of June 30, 2020) and the number is still increasing.
(Source: Open COVID-19 Declarers, https://www.gckyoto.com/covid-2)
The Number of Patents acquired between 2011 and June 2020
Seven of the top ten companies in terms of the number of acquired patents in Japan are among the declarers. One aspect of this declaration is the large number of patents released.
This is an unprecedented action in that, there are a lot of companies collaborating and releasing their own patents for free. Companies who are usually in competition with each other are now working together in an attempt to overcome the present crisis the world faces.
Most of those announcing their involvement may seem to be of non-medically-related industries. However, large companies tend to own a wide range of patents and medical companies are not able to single-handedly contribute to the COVID-19 situation. The following are examples of companies which primarily operate business in non-medical fields, and their technological fields which may be useful against COVID-19:
Technological Fields which may useful for the OCD
Healthcare technology such as imaging technology, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) systems, and CT (computerized tomography) devices.
Many kinds of technology including disinfection-, bacterial eradication-, antibacterial-related and test- and examination-related technology.
Support technology to develop new pharmaceuticals and observe patients.
Technology related to information security, location information analysis, online testing, and remote diagnosis.
Technologies of Toyota Production System (TPS) and “Human Support Robots” which remotely assist people’s everyday lives.
The advantages of using released patents for research institutes and companies which have been conducting research and development against COVID-19 include making new developments quickly without the need to negotiate with the patent owner or to pay for costs such as license fees.
Overview of the OPEN COVID-19 DECLARATION
To make it easier for companies and research institutions to develop virus testing, therapeutic technology, and medical devices and to sooner contain the COVID-19.
Contents of declaration:
“…we hereby declare, without seeking compensation, that we will not assert any patent, utility model, design or copyright during the time of this crisis, against any activities whosesole purpose is stopping the spread of COVID-19, including diagnosis, prevention, containment and treatment.”
- Patent rights, utility models, designs, and copyrights owned by declarers, as a rule, can be used without charge only for the purpose of preventing COVID-19.
- Both IP rights acquired in Japan and in foreign countries may be used.
Effective Period: In principle, until the World Health Organization (WHO) declares the end of the spread of the COVID-19.
Founders: Management executives and IP executives from 20 major companies who agreed to the appeal made by Professor Fumihiko Matsuda (Center for Genomic Medicine, Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto University).
If you would like to use the released patents, please access the following website for more details (https://www.gckyoto.com/covid-2).
Notes of Caution:
When using the released patents, please keep in mind that patent holders who have agreed to participate in the OCD can partially reserve the right to utilize their patent rights. Some declarers of the OCD will release their patent rights only related to specific technical fields and only Japanese patent rights, some require notice in advance prior to being used, and some may the no-charge limit time period to one year. We recommend confirming the reservation conditions for utilizing released patents of each of the declarers in advance since the patents in the above case may not be used unconditionally (https://www.gckyoto.com/declarers).
Japanese Government’s Actions
The Japanese government proposed an agenda to establish a global framework for easy use of therapeutic medicines and vaccines in developing countries. The idea is to establish a “Patent Pool” in which an international organization manages patent rights and gives licenses to generic drug manufacturers in developing countries at lower prices. According to government officials, the Japanese government received positive reactions from each country and will propose this matter at the next G7.
Some people may wonder whether the above plan can be achieved. However, there was a past successful case related to therapeutic medicine for HIV in which “UNITAID”, a relevant body of the United Nations to support the dissemination of anti-infective drug, established “the Medicines Patent Pool”.
We pray for the day when we are all relieved of COVID-19 so that people all over the world can regain their peaceful lives.
Originally published 10 July, 2020
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.
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