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Where data strategy meets intellectual property strategy

Myriam Davidson

The successful execution of a business strategy includes the alignment and implementation of strategy subtypes. Most corporations are aware they need a data strategy and an intellectual property (IP) strategy but the intersection of how they intertwine and can be of service to the overarching business strategy may be elusive. 

Your data is an asset, treat it as such

Data, in all its various forms and uses, is ubiquitous within a business and the amount we collect, process, and utilize increases daily. Treat your data as you should/would any other intangible asset, with proactive intentionality. 

As a part of your larger data strategy, a crucial step is reviewing and understanding the types of data you have, mapping it to uses, prioritizing its importance, and actioning the most important types. What data within the company has commercial value? What data within the company mitigates risk? How does the data get collected and used, and how do opportunities and risks play into that?  

Some data will be more important to your corporate objectives than others. Some data may be business critical. By prioritizing those, you focus your resources on where they will have the greatest impact. Are the appropriate processes, safeguards, and cultural awareness implemented to allow you to make the most of it?

Once you understand your data and its purpose you can review it through the lens of intellectual property rights. 

Data and intellectual property rights

While it may seem that, at first glance, data would be ineligible for IP protection, organizations should not let this dissuade them from pursuing it. Your data can (and should) be protected using multiple types of IP. 

For example, although raw data points may be considered facts, and therefore not privy to copyright protection, creative arrangements and how you structure or annotate said data could be. Your data set or the algorithms by which to analyze them could be protected by trade secrets. While methods and systems to manipulate the data more effectively could be protected by a utility patent. Additionally, ownership of the data and derivatives especially as it relates to licensing agreements can also come into play. 

Increasing value

In our data-driven economy, being able to gather, secure, and leverage your data to extract value will create competitive advantage and economic benefit.  Value can be created through: 

  • Managing data and its intellectual property implications intentionally.
  • Fostering a culture that is IP and data aware coupled with a clear innovation reporting process will promote identification of IP rights within the organization. 
  • Implementing a strategy that layers different but compatible types of IP rights (i.e., trade secrets, copyrights, patents). 
  • Executive accountability for IP rights evaluation and actioning will ensure that IP rights tied to your data are captured and leveraged. 
  • Including the IP rights associated with your data as part of your IP portfolio will demonstrate a more comprehensive overview of value.
  • Including how your data is being leveraged and protected in you IP strategy showcases a sophisticated management capability. 

Managing risk

Managing risk from an IP perspective can include: 

  • Creating explicit and descriptive licensing agreements. This can include considerations such as data use, data ownership, data modification possibilities, and confidentiality requirements. 
  • Clearly defining what constitutes derivative data in licensing agreements, especially as it relates to data ownership. Managing complexities if the licensed data will be combined with partner or third-party data where new IP rights may be developed. 
  • Ensuring that data is managed in compliance with regulatory requirements, especially regarding (customer) data ownership and privacy. This is particularly important if data will be stored or shared across borders, as regulations are jurisdiction specific. 
  • Mitigating risk of unintentional loss of rights from internal sources. This includes trade secret theft but also the inadvertent loss of rights through accidental disclosure by employees if they are not aware of the trade secret status of an asset. 
  • Mitigating risk of targeted attacks on confidential information. This includes implementing not only structural cybersecurity processes but also employee training to increase awareness of phishing techniques.  

Pragmatically, companies will have more data than they can effectively manage. By intentionally characterizing and prioritizing high impact data and incorporating IP strategy into the data strategy, value can be maximized, and risk reduced. 

Need help applying an intellectual property strategy perspective to your data strategy? The Stratford Intellectual Property team at Stratford Group Ltd. is happy to help.

About Myriam

An innovation strategist, Myriam specializes in intellectual property strategy, with a focus on in information management to fully utilize information sources to advance business objectives, drive innovation, identify market opportunities, and minimize risk. Starting with the end in mind, Myriam aligns developing a company’s IP strategy in service of the business strategy setting the company up on a path for continued growth and success. Myriam’s distinctive skills led to her ranking on the IAM Strategy 300 global list of Leading IP Strategists, an annual guide of individuals who have demonstrated the ability to deliver a world-class IP value creation service offering.