Int J Biol Sci 2021; 17(6):1588-1599. doi:10.7150/ijbs.58807


Global landscape of patents related to human coronaviruses

Kunmeng Liu1†, Zixuan Gu1†, Md Sahidul Islam1, Thomas Scherngell2, Xiangjun Kong1, Jing Zhao1, Xin Chen1, Yuanjia Hu1✉

1. State Key Laboratory of Quality Research in Chinese Medicine, Institute of Chinese Medical Sciences, University of Macau, Taipa, Macau, China
2. Innovation Systems & Policy, AIT Austrian Institute of Technology, Vienna, Austria
†The authors wish it to be known that, in their opinion, the first two authors should be regarded as Joint First Authors.

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Liu K, Gu Z, Islam MS, Scherngell T, Kong X, Zhao J, Chen X, Hu Y. Global landscape of patents related to human coronaviruses. Int J Biol Sci 2021; 17(6):1588-1599. doi:10.7150/ijbs.58807. Available from

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At present, the COVID-19 pandemic is running rampant, having caused 2.18 million deaths. Characterizing the global patent landscape of coronaviruses is essential not only for informing research and policy, given the current pandemic crisis, but also for anticipating important future developments. While patents are a promising indicator of technological knowledge production widely used in innovation research, they are often an underused resource in biological sciences. In this study, we present a patent landscape for the seven coronaviruses known to infect humans. The information included in this paper provides a strong intellectual groundwork for the ongoing development of therapeutic agents and vaccines along with a deeper discussion of intellectual property rights under epidemic conditions. The results show that there has been a rapid increase in human coronavirus patents, especially COVID-19 patents. China and the United States play an outstanding role in global cooperation and patent application. The leading role of academic institutions and government is increasingly apparent. Notable technological issues related to human coronaviruses include pharmacochemical treatment, diagnosis of viral infection, viral-vector vaccines, and traditional Chinese medicine. Furthermore, a critical challenge lies in balancing commercial competition, enterprise profit, knowledge sharing, and public interest.

Keywords: coronavirus, COVID-19, patent citation network, patent landscape