Biden administration supports waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines – a big step in making vaccines more accessible to developing nations

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Protesters picket outside Johnson & Johnson Offices during the Global Day Of Action For A People’s Vaccine on March 11, 2021 in Cape Town, South Africa.

  • The Biden administration will support waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines.
  • US Trade Representative Katherine Tai made the announcement on Wednesday.
  • The aim “is to get as many safe and effective vaccines to as many people as fast as possible,” Tai said.
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The Biden administration announced Wednesday that it supports waiving intellectual property rights for coronavirus vaccines, saying “extraordinary circumstances” call for “extraordinary measures.”

The move, sought by developing nations, would allow other countries to manufacture vaccines from Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, and Moderna without fear of sanctions at the World Trade Organization.

President Joe Biden had pledged during the 2020 campaign that he would not allow patents to stand in the way of other countries manufacturing their own vaccines. Congressional Democrats, as well as former world leaders, had lobbied him to keep that promise.

“The administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections,” US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said in a statement, “but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines.”

Tai said the Biden administration would argue for that policy at the WTO. It had previously joined with the European Union in resisting the call. Pharmaceutical trade groups have argued that waiving IP rights would stymie innovation.

Support for a waiver comes as India, a producer of the AstraZeneca vaccine, is experiencing its worst wave yet of COVID-19, accounting for nearly half of the world’s new cases and a quarter of its deaths.

Tai said the Biden administration will also work “to expand vaccine manufacturing and distribution,” as well as address one of the biggest bottlenecks: “the raw materials needed to produce those vaccines.”

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Sony has filed a patent for a system that could turn bananas and other household items into PlayStation controllers

Screenshot of Sony's patent
An illustration of Sony’s patent.

  • Sony Interactive Inc. has filed a patent to convert inanimate objects into game controllers. 
  • The system could potentially work with anything from coffee mugs to pens.
  • It would also be equipped with a camera that will allow players to press virtual buttons. 
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The United States Patent and Trademark Office recently published a bizarre request from video game firm Sony Interactive Entertainment Inc. to patent a system that turns ordinary household objects and food products into PlayStation controllers, Entrepreneur reports.

“The system comprises an input unit operable to obtain images of a non-luminous passive object held by a user as a video game controller,” the patent says.

In the patent, Sony uses an illustrated banana to visualize their new system. Oranges are among one of the other examples the company uses. “E.g. a player may hold two bananas – one in each respective hand; or e.g two oranges – one in each respective hand.”

While the patent designs shows a banana, Sony anticipates that the system would work with anything from coffee mugs to a piece of bread. 

“It would be desirable if a user could use an inexpensive, simple, and non-electronic device as a video game peripheral,” the patent says, as reported by Polygon.

The system also consists of an object detector and an object pose detector, which is dependent on the position of at least one of the player’s hands, all registered by a camera, per Entrepreneur. The camera would be installed with the purpose of mapping out virtual buttons on the object of choice so that pressing on an object works like pressing a button. 

The patent says this would help users take advantage of all the functions of games, including multiplayer.

Even though the patent is registered, it doesn’t mean Sony will actually carry out the project. A patent only protects other competitors from utilizing this type of technology.

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