Fact Check: Patents Do NOT Mean Deadly Diseases And Viruses Were Created Or Invented In A Lab

Tue, 03 Mar 2020 19:19:52 UTC by Ryan Cooper

Do patents accurately suggest that deadly diseases and viruses were created or invented in a lab? No, that's not true: Just because there is a patent for something does not mean it works. Likewise, patents for diseases and viruses do not mean these medical problems were lab-made. Instead, the patents are for possible treatments or vaccines, some of which were tested but did not work.

The claims originated from a post (archived here) published by Brian Edward on February 28, 2020. It opened:

US-Patent 5676977

US-Patent 8835624

US-Patent 20120251502

Swine Flu
US-Patent CA2741523 A1

US-Patent 0070031450 A1

(Rockefeller Foundation)

US-Patent 7897744 & 8506968

US-Patent 10130701

Users on social media saw this:

The post's publisher said in the caption that these viruses and diseases "have been proven to be modified in a lab by humans." The claim is misleading, and this list of random patent numbers does not prove that the maladies were created in a laboratory.

For example, the first patent number listed on the graphic has been the subject of several Internet claims that suggest the U.S. government owns a patent for the cure to AIDS, as Metabunk.org has reported. According to the site:

1. It's not a cure for a AIDS. It's just a patent for some speculative use of colloidal sliver to zap the HIV virus which has never been shown to work.
2. The government does not own the patent. It's owned by alternative medicine salesman Marvin S. Antelman​

Scientists do not believe that HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, was lab-made. According to the AIDS Institute, they believe the virus originated in a type of chimpanzee that infected humans when they came into contact with their infected blood.

Here are links to the other patents referenced on the graphic, and a description for what each actually represents:

Infodemic.blog is a website that tries to educate the public by separating fact from fiction related to the novel coronavirus. It has created a series of informational tweets about how to trace claims and find better coverage online. It advises that readers should be careful not to assume a list of patents explains the origins of anything:

Lead Stories has reported on viral hoaxes and claims about patents before. The conspiracy theories likely stem from confusion about why someone would patent a virus. This used to be common practice until a few years ago because most researchers wanted to protect their discoveries and make sure nobody else could block the development of vaccines by claiming ownership of a particular virus. A Supreme Court decision in 2012 ruled, "Genes and the information they encode are not patent eligible under §101 simply because they have been isolated from the surrounding genetic material."

The ruling mostly ended the practice.

Similar conspiracies related to patented viruses appeared in 2014 about Ebola, as debunked by Snopes. In 2013, there was also confusion about MERS virus patents.

Regardless, a patent filing is not evidence of the origin of a virus or disease, and this graphic contains a lot of misleading information.

Three more deaths in the United States were tied to the novel coronavirus on March 3, 2020, bringing the death toll in America to nine, as the global mortality rate increased to 3.4%, which compares to less than 1% for the flu, according to the Los Angeles Times. Worldwide, more than 3,000 deaths have been blamed on COVID-19, the name for the novel coronavirus.

Other fact checks by Lead Stories concerning coronavirus misinformation include: