COVID-19 and Intellectual Property

Most facets of life have been impacted by COVID-19, including the way we handle intellectual property. From enforcing IP protections to safeguarding trade secrets, the pandemic has introduced a number of changes.

Impact on IP Used in Remote Business Operations

For companies that have transitioned to remote work-forces, the way trade secrets and other sensitive information is protected has to adapt. Many businesses have had to adjust their current IP protection policies and implement new technologies and practices in order to keep trade secrets safe when being used by home-based employees.

This is not only important in terms of maintaining competitiveness, but it also has legal implications. In order for a piece of information to be considered a trade secret, there must be reasonable efforts put in place to protect it. As such, the efforts businesses will have to make in order to maintain this classification may need to be updated.

Application and Enforcement

With courts being closed to physical, in-person hearings, much of the enforcement of IP issues has either been handled remotely or else postponed. Intellectual property is primarily under the jurisdiction of the federal government, so closures of the Supreme Court, Circuit Courts, and Courts of Appeal are those that primarily affect patent and IP enforcement.

Some of the requirements for securing intellectual property have been adjusted to conform to social distancing guidelines. For instance, hearings may be handled by phone or other means, and specific requirements have been waived for the time being.

That said, many of the processes of applying for patents and trademarks, processing petitions, and handling hearings, are still being carried out.

Development of New IP

The pandemic has led many enterprises to develop new IP for the purposes of slowing the spread of COVID-19 and ending the pandemic. A number of legislative acts have been issued to support these developments, such as the PREP (Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness) Act which helps curb the liability that may arise from the development and distribution of products made to combat the virus.

Donating Patents

Part of the effort to slow the disease is the donation of patent rights. A number of programs have been established to facilitate licensing of IP for the purposes of ending the pandemic. For instance, the COVID-19 Technology Access Framework established by various universities is an effort to help researchers execute licenses in a quick, inexpensive manner in order to help develop products and procedures to slow the spread. Other measures are being taken to facilitate the sharing of patents for medicines and technologies.

Protecting IP in a Crisis

Making sure their intellectual property is safeguarded in the midst of a crisis is one of the many challenges posed to businesses today. While the legal processes may look slightly different today from the norm, it’s still important to keep copyrighted material, patents, and trade secrets secure. In addition, there are ways to use IP to benefit society as a whole. Knowing the best course for your business to take can be difficult, however, but outside resources, such as an IP attorney, can assist with that process.

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