Rush to File Covid-Releated Patents is Slowing But Not Innovation; Ford, MIT and Harvard Tout New Products

With large numbers of patents already issued in the areas of testing, vaccine and protective masks, the race to patent new inventions that help to manage Covid-19 has slowed. But if products under development are any indication, getting innovative solutions to the public has only just begun. 

Lower rates of patent issuance in the area of personal protective equipment (PPE) and related areas should not be seen as diminished progress or investment. It more likely means than after a flurry of early grants relating basic research, more focused patents that reflect improvements are waiting to issue, and the work of commercializing inventions is underway.

Significantly fewer patents have been published and are waiting to issue, according to patent data analytics firm, DexPatent, especially in the area of masks, where 2,028 patents were granted worldwide from December 2020 to May 2021. Currently, there are just 744 published patents waiting to issue, about 63% fewer.

Collaboration on Devices

The Wyss Institute at Harvard University and Venture Builder at the MIT Jameel Clinic for AI & Healthcare are among organizations collaborating on innovative Covid detection devices.

“Current commercially available wearables (e.g., FitBit or Apple Watch) detect physiological signals electronically,” the team leaders report. “However, they cannot detect exposure to a pathogen or a toxin. That is something that currently requires an entire laboratory to process samples.”

Face Mask that can detect COVID-19
Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard 

The partners are currently focused on ways to bring advanced biological circuits, a field known as ‘synthetic biology,’ out of the laboratory and into everyday technology. This led them to focus on biosensor-containing wearables.

“Biosensors use engineered genetic circuits to create sensors and detectors for a desired molecular target through biology, in contrast to electronic/mechanical/optical sensors,” says the team. “We think biosensors are uniquely suited for pathogen and toxin detection, as they are most able to directly interface with these molecular components.”

For more information see the Collins Lab at MIT.

Ford Has a Better Idea

Ford Motor Company, best known for vehicles design and manufacture, has received patent-pending approval for a new, clear respirator mask it expects to work just as well as an N95 top of the line model.

Ford’s N95 Clear Respirator Mask

Ford has received patent-pending approval for an innovative new clear respirator it expects to certify to N95 standards of virus elimination.

The transparent, low-cost, reusable respirators enable a full range of human expression, allowing people to better communicate with each other and aiding those with hearing impairments to help read lips that are today blocked by conventional cloth and filtered masks.

“One of the things that’s missing during the pandemic is the power of a smile,” said Jim Baumbick, a vice president at Ford, in a statement. “This clear respirator promises to improve interactions between neighbors, at the store and for those who have hearing impairments.”

Image source: Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University; patentnewzbox;

One comment

  1. As all innovators experience (and have to deal with) it takes 2 to 5 years to get a patent application to issue. It is 18 months from the application date to publication – in the interim we do not know what is pending at the respective patent offices. In February of 2020 masks were not deemed an effective measure, the world was jsut starting to experience the “new” “Covid19” – how can we measure any published patents/ patent applications and attribute any innovation to “Covid19” yet???


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