Not Recording Data Is Not an Option: Tips for Protecting Intellectual Property with an ELN


protecting intellectual property
Protecting intellectual property is not difficult if you are using an ELN.
Image Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration via Wikimedia Commons

Many scientists question how to protect intellectual property discovered in the lab. When it comes to protecting intellectual property (IP), scientists have to think like spies. A good spy will ensure that information is secured so that others cannot access it. Surprisingly, one of the most common ways to secure information is just to not write it down.

According to Michael Pillsbury, the author of the new book The Hundred Year Marathon, Chinese leaders used this strategy in regard to securing and disguising their own internal political intentions. Pillsbury explains that sixty-five years ago Chinese leaders implemented a marathon plan to replace the United States as the economic, military and political leader of the world by the year 2049, without writing any of it down. Pillsbury claims, “The Marathon is so well-known to China’s leaders that there is no need to risk exposure by writing it down.” He goes on to say that this is one reason why most U.S. policy makers do not believe that it even exists.

There are many reasons why this strategy might work for politics, including the ability to deny its existence. However, when adopting a “no notes” policy in the lab and at the bench, it will actually cause more problems for scientists. For example, key points could be lost or forgotten over time and the amount of data that is produced in today’s laboratories is too expansive for a single individual to track, regardless of their mental capabilities.

For scientists who are concerned with security, but need to balance the possibility of forgetting key IP points, the best solution is to implement an electronic laboratory notebook. The benefits of an electronic notebook include the following:

  • Data Capture – Within the last 10 years, there has been a major shift to using laboratory instruments to provide digital results. Typically, these are saved to multiple hard drives where only limited users have access to them. However, an ELN provides a single database where all users can save their files. In addition, ELNs can interface with other lab instruments to accept the data feed directly. This ensures that all of the data and IP are collected and stored in a single location.
  • Data Security – Rather than attempting to remember the key points for preventing data from being discovered, an ELN provides multiple layers of security to protect information from unapproved individuals. The first layer is authentication security with which users are permitted access based upon a username and password. A second layer of security can be configured to control user access rights. This secondary level allows certain team members or managers access to information, while restricting others.
  • Encryption – Another feature available within an ELN is the ability to encrypt data. This ensures that only users that have the appropriate key can unlock and review the data. This type of tool can be particularly helpful when transferring intellectual property over the Internet.

Although not having a plan written down maybe an acceptable tactic for Chinese politics, it is simply not possible for scientists. There is just too much data to remember everything. Alternatively, an ELN can provide the same level of security, as well as tracking and capture capabilities for large amounts of data. For more information regarding the BIOVIA Notebook and how it can help with protecting intellectual property in your laboratory, please visit our website today.

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