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Covid-19 IP Task Force formed at University of Cambridge 

By Dr Frank Tietze

Through the past months, a newly formed “Covid-19 IP task force” at the IIPM Lab at the Centre for Technology Management (CTM), University of Cambridge, led by Dr Frank Tietze, has been trying to understand the role of intellectual property (IP) during the Covid-19 pandemic. As Leverhulme Trust funded visiting professor to Cambridge and the IIPM Lab particularly Ove Granstrand has been actively involved.

In fighting Covid-19 there are many obvious IP issues related to development of vaccines, therapeutic drugs, diagnostic tests and protective gear. However, there are many more subtle IP challenges, such as those related to the various collaborative and open innovation activities that have been initiated during recent weeks across various industrial sectors. Various new partnerships have been established, often in a rush, such as the UK ventilator consortium for which the UK government recently launched an IP insurance scheme. The turbulent dynamics currently at play are impacting established industrial structures, certainly temporary, if not permanently. This industrial restructuring goes hand in hand with IP related challenges and strategic IP choices. New entrants venturing into crisis-critical sectors face IP decisions when repurposing manufacturing capabilities to produce crisis-critical products, for which IP is often owned by incumbents. Incumbent firms, who suddenly face new entrants in ‘their’ sectors, have to decide how to design IP arrangements with new entrants to possibly benefit from new entrant’s innovation efforts in a post-pandemic world.

Initial research activities by the task force have grown into a portfolio of projects including work to identify crisis-critical innovations during pandemics, development of a crisis typology from an innovation and IP perspective, visual mapping of changing industrial innovation ecosystems with its associated IP challenges and a comparative analysis of IP challenges faced by developed and less-developed countries. CTM-IIPM team members have published a number of articles and blog posts, and has been interviewed and quoted by different news outlets. Dr Tietze has been sharing CTM’s Covid-19 related IP research during a recent talk jointly organised by Cambridge Network and the University’s Maxwell Centre. Dr Tietze has also joined the steering committee of the Open Covid Pledge, an international initiative involving colleagues from Stanford, UC Berkeley, University of Utah, Creative Commons and DLA Piper to promote various schemes for the free sharing of IP during the ongoing pandemic. The Covid-19 work on IP has also been featured by the Institute for New Economic Thinking at Cambridge.

A few key outcomes of the research are available here: 

Tietze, F., P. Vimalnath, L. Aristodemou and J. Molloy (2020). “Crisis-Critical Intellectual Property: Findings from the COVID-19 Pandemic.” IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management.

Elsen, M., F. Tietze, L. Aristodemou and A. Moerchel (2020). Unpacking the innovation landscape for crisis-critical products, services and technologies in the Covid-19 pandemic. IIPM Blog, University of Cambridge.