Innovation is one of the most significant forces underpinning the growth of our economy. In the life science and technology industries, innovation is of paramount importance, perhaps even more so than in any other sector. However, advancements in these areas will be stalled if efforts are not made to promote and protect innovation, possibly causing catastrophic economic consequences. In recognition of this fact, there have been ongoing negotiations regarding various international trade agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, that are seeking to include provisions that fortify, expand, and enforce international intellectual property (IP) agreements.
It obviously behooves life science firms and investors to get involved in policymaking and the legislative process as much as possible to encourage and lobby for strong IP rules and regulations. Of course, there is only so much one can do to influence the direction and speed of our often frustratingly slow government. And, there is generally not much that can be done about inappropriate actions taken beyond our national borders (at least not at a micro level). Because of this, it is incumbent upon professionals in the life science field to be proactive and take steps internally to protect valuable IP. This can be accomplished in various ways, but here are a few suggestions:
File for Necessary Legal Protection
This is probably a fairly obvious solution, and yet plenty of folks fail to submit the appropriate paperwork, often due to laziness, naïveté, the belief that they are too busy to be bothered, or the erroneous notion that it is pointless or costly. There is simply no denying that dealing with the aftermath of an IP breach is far more expensive and time-consuming, so in cases where legal protection is available, it should be pursued as soon as feasible.
Save All Valuable Information in an Encrypted Online Data Room
Encrypting valuable data, both while it is saved in an electronic format and when it is in transit via any computer network, is crucial to preventing it from succumbing to unwanted exposure. And, this does not require the services of a computer expert. Confidential information can be saved in an online data room that is specifically built to provide end-to-end encryption of data. Thus, even in the unlikely event that someone manages to intercept important documents, the contents will be indecipherable.
Develop Unique Coding to Conceal Certain Pieces of Data
It can be risky to invest in some life science companies, such as those dedicated to drug development, because the research and development involved tends to be a long, complicated, and expensive process. Thus, special formulas, procedures, or materials involved in the creation and development of a life science-related product must be fiercely safeguarded. If not, anyone who manages to obtain this information may be able to replicate the results or sell the data to someone else who will do so, resulting in major losses for investors and likely deterring any future funding. As a result, companies should consider developing a unique coding system in order to conceal the actual nature of certain pieces of data. This may sound like some silly nonsense that is only done in the movies, but smart companies have been doing this for decades to ensure that trade secrets are effectively sheltered.
Restrict the Number of Employees with Access to Data and Code
In general, only a select few need to know the nitty-gritty of a company’s IP. Companies that restrict the number of employees with access to sensitive data and any code used to obscure it are far less likely to have that information compromised accidentally. Of course, it is always possible for someone in the know to depart and purposely sell that information for personal enrichment, but using solid non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements can curtail the likelihood of that happening.
Aggressive IP protection is imperative to incentivizing investment in life science companies, thereby ensuring the discovery of innovative treatments, cures, and procedures for an array of diseases and other biological processes, as well as fostering economic growth.