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Patent application doesn’t show COVID test was developed in 2015

December 7, 2022 GMT

CLAIM: A COVID-19 test patent application is dated 2020 but was actually filed in 2015.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The patent application, for a system to determine if someone has a viral infection such as COVID-19, notes that a related provisional patent application was filed in 2015. But while the earlier provisional application is related to the technology in the 2020 application, it made no mention of COVID-19.

THE FACTS: Social media users are sharing the inaccurate claim through a meme, which implies that COVID-19 was actually known years before it emerged in late 2019. The meme also suggests such information is being censored on social media.

“The patent of the covid testkit is hold by Richard A. Rothchild,” a meme shared on Instagram reads, incorrectly spelling the last name of the inventor, Rothschild. “It’s dated in 2020 but was filled 10/13/2015 and it’s called US2020279585(A1).”

But that distorts the facts.

The patent application in question was filed in May 2020 and describes a method of using biometric data to “to determine whether the user is suffering from a viral infection, such as COVID-19.”

Under a section titled “Related U.S. Application Data,” the application makes note of a provisional application filed on Oct. 13, 2015.

What that means, though, is that the patent is related to the provisional application that was filed years ago. They are not one in the same.

A provisional application is essentially a placeholder for an intention to file a formal patent application, said Jonathan D’Silva, an assistant professor of clinical law and director of the Intellectual Property Law Clinic at Penn State University.

Inventors may file a provisional application for different reasons, such as raising money or publicly disclosing their idea as they work on it, he said.

The provisional application in 2015 was for a “System and Method for Using, Processing, and Displaying Biometric Data.”

The 2020 patent application, meanwhile, was a “continuation-in-part” of a previous patent application, which means that new material was added, D’Silva said. In this case, the new material included the references to COVID-19.

“Generally, you don’t have to guess what was in these other patent applications,” he said, since they’re publicly available. And in the earlier parent applications, “there was no mention of COVID-19.”

False claims about COVID-19 based on misrepresentations of various patents have circulated since the start of the pandemic.


This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.