Covid-19 countermeasures in Japan and the world: a movement towards the free provision of patents for the development & manufacture of medications & vaccines

Facebook, Amazon and others release their patents

As the new coronavirus disease spreads throughout the world, the governments of various countries are struggling to respond.

Facebook, Amazon and others release their patents

As the new coronavirus disease spreads throughout the world, the governments of various countries are struggling to respond. Furthermore, many research institutes and enterprises are striving to develop and manufacture medications and vaccines, and establish treatment methods. However, even if a breakthrough drug is developed, intellectual property law which governs patents could become an obstacle to mass production or commercialization, and so hinder COVID-19 measures.

To that end, companies such as Intel, Facebook, Amazon, IBM and Microsoft have joined together to take the Open COVID Pledge. The aim of this action is to tighten up the general response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and as much as possible to minimize its harmful consequences. Thereby, patents held by member companies will be freely available on a temporary license if they can be used to prevent the spread of COVID-19 or to treat infected patients.

Because such patents can be used for the development of medical devices, network devices and software, a wide range of practical applications can be expected.

A similar movement begins in Japan

A similar movement has also begun in Japan with the IP Open Access Declaration Against COVID-19 the IP Open Access Declaration Against COVID-19. Just as with the Open COVID Pledge, participating companies will not require any payment or compensation for their patent rights, utility model rights, design rights, and copyrights if these rights can be used as part of COVID-19 countermeasures.By not exercising their intellectual property rights they are streamlining the development and manufacturing of pharmaceuticals and medical devices that can be employed against COVID-19.

As with the Open COVID Pledge, this free provision of intellectual property is available for a limited time. Essentially, it begins when each company declares their participation and it ends when the World Health Organization (WHO) declares the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The particular organizations taking part in this movement can be checked on the Open COVID-19 Declarers page. However, please note that as different organizations differ on the conditions attached to the free availability of their intellectual property, they are divided between “Declarer who signed standard declaration” who have no special limitations, and “Declarer who signed limited declaration” who have set distinct conditions related to such matters as scope and duration.

Japanese companies that launched the movement

The number of companies and organizations endorsing both the Open COVID Pledge and Open Access Declaration Against COVID-19 is increasing every day. To introduce them all would be impossible, but we can focus on those companies and organizations that founded the IP Open Access Declaration Against COVID-19.

A food company first launched on sales of their “Ajinomoto” glutamate flavoring in 1909. Having expanded their operations across the world, they are now engaged in such products as animal feed and pharmaceuticals.

Founded as a camera manufacturer in 1933, it has expanded into the field of office machines such as photocopiers, and is also involved in equipment for manufacturing semiconductors and medical diagnostic apparatus.

Center for Genomic Medicine, Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto University
A research institute of Kyoto University conducting research into genetic disorders.

A global fashion brand.

GenoConcierge Kyoto
Utilizing technologies such as AI, big data, and gene analysis, this company supports activities such as disease diagnosis and elucidating pathology.

Honda Motor
A global automobile and motorcycle manufacturer founded in 1948. First popular for selling engines that could power bicycles, they then developed their own engines, before expanding into the motorcycle and automobile business.

Founded in 1945, Horiba provides measurement technology for various fields such as medical care, semiconductors, and automobiles.

Konica Minolta
Beginning in 1873 with sales of photographic materials, Konica later moved into the camera and photographic film business. Camera manufacturer Minolta, which was founded in 1928, merged with Konica in 2003. Currently Konica Minolta deals with optical devices, planetariums, healthcare equipment, and office equipment.

LSI Medience
This company provides clinical test services and also deals with diagnostic agents and diagnostic equipment.

NEC Solution Innovators
A system integrator providing ICT solutions to local governments and various companies.

Mitsui Knowledge Industry
Developing a variety of ICT solution industries, Mitsui’s information system division, was established as an independent business in 1967.

Founded in 1917 as a manufacturer of optical equipment. Currently, in addition to cameras, it provides semiconductor manufacturing equipment, medical optics, and a variety of measuring instruments.

Nissan Motor
A global automobile manufacturer. A car factory founded in the 1910 s merged with a foundry business in 1934 to become Nissan Motor.

Founded in 1954. First selling electrical resistors Rohm now deals in electronic devices such as LSIs.

Founded in 1875 as a manufacturer of educational physics and chemistry equipment and now engaged in medical equipment, measuring instruments, and aircraft equipment. In 2002 this company’s employee Koichi Tanaka was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry/ for his achievements in developing protein ionization technology.

Founded in 1970 this healthcare development company is centered on clinical testing services.

Founded in 1918, Teijin became a manufacturer of various synthetic fibers, starting with rayon fiber, and expanded its business into the fields of materials and healthcare.

Toyota Motor
A global automobile manufacturer founded in 1926 as a loom manufacturer. In 1933, Toyota established the automobile manufacturing division and entered the automobile business.

Tsubakimoto Chain
Founded in 1917, this company deals in power transmission devices, transport machinery, and electronic devices.

Yahoo Japan
Established as a joint venture between Yahoo and Softbank in 1996, Yahoo Japan continues to develop a variety of internet services. Currently, it has no capital relationship with Yahoo.

Nobuhiko Sato