Online posts falsely claim a COVID-19 testing patent was filed in 2015

By: Rajini KG
June 13 2023

Share Article: facebook logo twitter logo linkedin logo
Online posts falsely claim a COVID-19 testing patent was filed in 2015


The Verdict False

The provisional patent filed in 2015 is about methods of using and displaying biometric data of individuals. It makes no mention of COVID-19 anywhere.

Claim ID 4697fe46

While coronavirus no longer remains a global health emergency, conspiracy theories about the origin of COVID-19 pandemic still attract a lot of attention on social media. A Facebook post, shared by more than a hundred users, recently claimed that COVID-19 testing was patented years before the pandemic spread worldwide. The post shared an image of the opening page of a patent document with overlaid text that read: "ROTHSCHILD PATENT FOR COVID-19 TESTING FILED IN 2015." The accompanying caption read: "If this doesn't speak of intent, then I don't know what does." The document, which has been shared in several other posts with similar claims, shows the patent was titled "System and method for testing for COVID-19" with “Patent No: US 2020/0279585 A1”. The patent application was filed by one Richard A Rothschild and was published on September 3, 2020.

In Fact
Logically Facts examined the viral patent document and found that it mentions a provisional application No 62/240,783 that was filed in 2015. We searched for the patent number on the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and found that the application was filed on October 13, 2015. According to USPTO, a provisional patent is an informal patent with a complete invention description. Still, it does not get reviewed by USPTO and does not require formal requirements like filing an oath or declaration. The inventors need to file a non-provisional patent within 12 months from the date the provisional application is filed.

The patent application specifications were listed under the Documents and Transactions section on the website. The patent was sought for a device — like a watch — that could process, use, and display biometric data such as heart rate, blood alcohol level, breath patterns, and pulse counts, among other things. There is no mention of COVID-19 or coronavirus in the document. The provisional document had an expiry date of October 16, 2016.

Subsequently, over the next few years, additional applications were filed to add features and updates to the invention for processing and displaying biometric data. The applications that were subsequently filed in 2017, 2019, and 2020 were patented. The latest one — filed in 2020 — is the only one that mentions COVID-19. The 2020 patent was filed on May 16, 2020, months after COVID-19 pandemic became a global emergency, to add a feature to the device that could detect whether an “individual is suffering from a bacterial and/or viral infection (e.g., COVID-19, etc.)” or track their respiratory conditions or symptoms.

Before the 2020 application, none of the documents mentioned the invention of COVID-19 testing method. Social media users have shared the screengrab of the 2020 patent document with a false claim. The latest application was filed on May 03, 2021, under the same parent application number. The data for each application can be checked on the USPTO website.

The claim about COVID-19 testing patent being submitted in 2015 had first surfaced online in 2020 and was then debunked by AFP. The AFP report, published in October 2020, said the patent application was uploaded onto Espacenet, a directory of patents developed by the European Patent Office. Rainer Osterwalder, a spokesperson of the European Patent Office, had told the news agency that “the patent application had no reference to COVID-19 before 2020.”

Social media posts making the inaccurate claim have also linked the origin of COVID-19 to the Rothschild family—one of the most famous European banking dynasties. We accessed the Rothschild family tree and could not find anyone named Richard A Rothschild in the family archive. This indicates that the person listed as the inventor is not from the famous Rothschild family, which is often linked to several conspiracy theories. A spokesperson for a company run by the family had also confirmed to AFP that the person named in the patent wasn’t linked to the dynasty. 

The Verdict
The claim that COVID-19 testing patent was submitted in 2015 is false, as earlier applications for the patent in question made no reference to COVID-19. The team which applied for the patent also has no connection with the Rothschild family. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a lot of potentially dangerous misinformation. For reliable advice on COVID-19, including symptoms, prevention, and available treatment, please refer to the World Health Organization or your national healthcare authority.

Would you like to submit a claim to fact-check or contact our editorial team?

Global Fact-Checks Completed

We rely on information to make meaningful decisions that affect our lives, but the nature of the internet means that misinformation reaches more people faster than ever before