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Philanthropist and co-chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Bill Gates gestures as he speaks to the audience during the Global Fund to Fight AIDS event in central France on Oct. 10, 2019. (AP) Philanthropist and co-chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Bill Gates gestures as he speaks to the audience during the Global Fund to Fight AIDS event in central France on Oct. 10, 2019. (AP)

Philanthropist and co-chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Bill Gates gestures as he speaks to the audience during the Global Fund to Fight AIDS event in central France on Oct. 10, 2019. (AP)

Daniel Funke
By Daniel Funke April 23, 2020

The Gates Foundation does not have a patent for the coronavirus

If Your Time is short

  • The Gates Foundation has not been assigned any patents related to the novel coronavirus.

  • The philanthropy is funding the development of potential vaccines for COVID-19.

Bill Gates is one of the leading voices on a timeline for a coronavirus vaccine. Some Facebook users say that’s because the billionaire philanthropist stands to profit from one.

An April 20 post includes several claims about Gates and his connection to the COVID-19 pandemic. The one that caught our eye says the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation "has the patent for this coronavirus."

"Pay attention will ya," reads the title of the image.

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

(Screenshot from Facebook)

We’ve fact-checked several false or misleading claims about the Gates Foundation’s connection to the coronavirus and a potential vaccine. The charity is a frequent target for online disinformation about the pandemic.

This Facebook post is also bogus. It’s similar to one of the earliest hoaxes we saw about the coronavirus in January, which originated on the conspiracy website Infowars.

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We looked through all of the patents assigned to both Gates and his foundation by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. As of now, none of them have to do with the novel coronavirus.

Federal guidelines stipulate that there is an 18-month confidentiality period after the first filing date. That means Gates or his foundation could have applied for a patent within the past 18 months and it would not be publicly listed.

There is no known treatment or vaccine for the coronavirus. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said a vaccine could take at least a year and a half to roll out.

The Gates Foundation is funding some of the 70 potential vaccines that are currently in development. The philanthropy said in a Feb. 5 statement that it is investing up to $60 million to "accelerate the discovery, development and testing of vaccines, treatments and diagnostics" for the coronavirus.

Gates and his philanthropy frequently apply for patents with partner organizations. But as of now, they’re not listed on a future vaccine patent.

We reached out to the Gates Foundation for comment. It pointed us to a fact-check from USA Today that debunks a similar claim.

 The Facebook post is inaccurate. We rate it False.

Our Sources

Ars Technica, "Bill Gates still helping known patent trolls obtain more patents," Aug. 14, 2013

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, "Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Dedicates Additional Funding to the Novel Coronavirus Response," Feb. 5, 2020

Business Insider, "A potential coronavirus vaccine funded by Bill Gates is set to begin testing in people, with the first patient expected to get it today," April 6, 2020

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Situation Summary, April 19, 2020

C-SPAN, "House Oversight and Reform Committee Hearing on Coronavirus Response, Day 1," March 11, 2020

Email from the Gates Foundation, April 22, 2020

Facebook post, April 20, 2020

Google Patents, accessed April 22, 2020

The New York Times, "Bill Gates, at Odds With Trump on Virus, Becomes a Right-Wing Target," April 17, 2020

PolitiFact, "Fact-checking hoaxes and conspiracies about the coronavirus," Jan. 24, 2020

USA Today, "Fact check: Did Gates Foundation fund, does Pirbright Institute own coronavirus patent?" March 27, 2020

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, 35 U.S.C. 122   Confidential status of applications; publication of patent applications., accessed April 22, 2020

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Patent Full-Text and Image Database, accessed April 22, 2020

World Health Organization, "DRAFT landscape of COVID-19 candidate vaccines," April 11, 2020

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More by Daniel Funke

The Gates Foundation does not have a patent for the coronavirus

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