The United States Patent Office (USPTO) has recently launched an intellectual property (IP) marketplace platform called Patents 4 Partnerships. This platform is intended to help bring together the patent holders of COVID-19 related inventions with potential licensees. The goal is to facilitate innovation in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The platform provides an easy-to-use, searchable repository open to the public that provides access to patents, patent applications, and information about whether or not a patent is available for licensing.
This platform is targeted to help translate key technologies with potential to become functional, effective tools against COVID-19, promoting health and wellness. Currently Patents 4 Partnerships focuses specifically on providing information about the treatment, prevention, and diagnosis of COVID-19, which is top-of-mind for the public, researchers, and inventors. However, USPTO may expand the scope later on to include other technologies as well.
The platform is user-friendly and simple to navigate. You can search for specific patents by entering keywords, inventor’s name, or patent name, and you can also refine your search by the issued/published date. The platform also displays a list of all the inventors, an abstract describing the invention, and a link that will take you to detailed information about licensing a specific patent.
When the platform launched, it included patents drawn from several databases including USPTO, the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer (FLC Business), the AUTM Innovation Marketplace (AIM), universities, and a number of federal agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
However, individual inventors can manually add and submit their patents for inclusion on this list. If you are interested in including your invention on the list of patented COVID-19 related technologies, USPTO provides this intake form on the Patents for Partnerships website.
There has been a groundswell of some voices, especially coming out of Washington, that are pushing for eradicating patenting and licensing exclusivity for technologies that could be useful in the fight against COVID-19. The rationale here is that if we get rid of the exclusivity that comes along with patenting, people will have greater and easier access to share and make use of technologies to develop therapeutics and other technologies. In fact, one proposal set forth by Congress went so far as to suggest denying pharmaceutical manufacturers exclusivity to COVID-related vaccines, drugs, or other therapeutics whether it was developed using federal dollars or not.
There are others who strongly believe in having patent protection for technologies related to vaccines or therapeutics as a practical matter because there is considerable risk regarding what the returns could be versus how much time, effort, and money goes into developing that technology. Protecting the invention to enable it to be developed without a larger player swooping in and taking it is necessary to get those inventions to a point where they could be potentially useful for translating into a therapeutic or other technology in a later stage.
Andrei Iancu, Director of USPTO, recently commented on the launch of Patents 4 Partnerships, further underscoring the role patents will play in the fight against COVID-19. He noted that the platform brings many sources of patents together, which can provide access to a larger variety of partnerships for independent inventors and small businesses to take their inventions to the next level. Depending on the success of piloting Patents 4 Partnerships and stakeholders’ interest and engagement, USPTO may expand this type of platform to other technologies and initiatives. Iancu stated some potential areas of expansion for this type of platform could be the USPTO’s Cancer Moonshot program or artificial intelligence innovation.
The USPTO’s marketplace platform Patents 4 Partnerships is one step forward in bringing companies and potential investors together with inventors so that they can further develop those inventions into usable therapies and treatments. The platform recognizes the need for an “all hands on deck” approach and bring together all the players in innovating such therapies and treatments, not driving them apart.