Globally, non-profits, NGOs, and environmental advocacy organizations are expanding scientific data collection while combining this data with data from third parties. Data scientists increasingly find themselves applying creative thought the the selection of tools and instruments, calibration of those instruments, and the process and selection of data to measure. This combined data is then used for synthesis, modeling and reporting, with the goal of making some or all of it available to the public. As Data scientists look to make these resources public, there are concerns with protecting the integrity, availability, and accessibility, of these resources. Since availability and accessibility and driven by funding, there is a need to commercialize these assets.
I recently had the honor of discussing the question of what legal rights exist in data at the Environmental Defense Fund‘s monthly Lunch & Learn.
In legal terms, those rights are intellectual property (IP) rights such as copyright, patents, and trademarks, confidentiality obligations, and contract rights. Each IP right has its own rules, and applying those rules to data leads to a complex, multi-layered analysis where the law can be unsettled and uncertain.
The principal areas of law discussed were copyright and contracts. The other forms of IP rights such as Patent, and Trademark did not apply to this discussion on data insofar as the term refers to information only, as opposed to a method or process applied to that data (Patent). A trademark is a source identifier that distinguishes one company, product or service from another and which is used to prevent confusion in the marketplace.
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