Protecting Intellectual Property in the Era of Big Data

August 16, 2017
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Big data is an invaluable tool for forward-thinking companies. As businesses move to improve their operating efficiency and tie key performance indicators to real-world results, integrated data analysis assumes an ever-increasing role in their activities. Of course, complex data sets are also associated with unique security challenges, and these have a major impact on intellectual property, or IP.

The Intersection between IP and Big Data

As any reputable trademark attorney or trademark lawyer will doubtlessly confirm, the legal framework that protects IP wasn’t exactly designed for the modern digital era. For instance, companies can’t copyright or patent most data. The vast majority generally have to rely on protection mechanisms such as trade secrets to keep information safe.

For some firms, especially younger startups, this may not be much of an issue. Established companies that want to bring their business data with them as they transition into the future should reevaluate the way they protect their IP. Regardless of their nature, however, most organizations can realize major benefits from conducting in-depth reassessments.

Building on Prior Art

One important aspect of keeping corporate data safe is that even trade secret laws may not cover everything. This is largely because most of the technology companies use to analyze business trends weren’t developed in house.

Corporations typically build business intelligence dashboards and other tools around proprietary third-party software that has already been copyrighted or protected. Organizations that employ open-source software are typically obligated by licensing terms that forbid them from copyrighting their derivative works. Using open-source tools also heightens the possibility that any copyright a company files will get denied or invalidated due to their use of readily-accessible prior art.

So how do entities protect themselves? Instead of relying solely on outdated legal mechanisms or waiting for legislators to catch up with the times, smart corporate leaders are instituting new policies with a focus on internal controls. By carefully governing how their employees use data-gathering apps and analysis tools, for instance, they may be able to reduce the risk of privacy breaches and limit losses.

Supplementing Legal Protection

IP-law reform advocates have pointed out that the patent system is too broken to keep information safe without help. Of course, that doesn’t mean companies should abandon it entirely.

Consider the fact that the rate at which data grows vastly outpaces the speed at which patents are granted. Like other federal agencies, the U.S Patent and Trademark Office is plagued by thin-stretched resources. Companies can’t necessarily count on officials to curb illicit data usage or prosecute illegal behaviors without external prompting. It’s critical that these firms take proactive stances on intellectual property protection.

For many companies, successful intellectual property protection begins with consulting an expert in the field. Even if an incident doesn’t give a firm the grounds to prosecute someone for an offense like corporate espionage or information theft, learning about the legal ramifications of different protections is vital to leveraging them effectively. In-depth assessments of corporate policies within a legal framework could also help companies find and close potential loopholes in their methodologies.