Business Secrets @ LESI 2023

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Cubicibuc’s director Graham Bell will be attending the Annual Conference of the Licensing Executives Society International (LESI) in Montréal, Canada on 30 April – 2 May, with an interest in Business Secrets and their role in creating value.

The theme for LESI2023 is Leveraging Intellectual Property to Enable Innovation and Créativité for an Inspired Future. Through keynote speakers and panel discussions with industry experts from around the world, LESI2023 discussions will focus on the role of intellectual property in accelerating investment and commercialization of technology and creative works globally. 

Mr Bell is a member of the Trade Secrets Group of the “Innovation Trends” Committee within the LESI. This group was created in 2021 with the aim of identifying and disseminating best practices in the field of managing business secrets. It is made up of members from various continents (Americas, South Asia and Europe).

The program for LESI 2023 will include a session on Business Secrets “The Next Big Revolution? Do’s and Don’ts in the Protection and Valuation of Trade Secrets: a Practical Management Approach” which promises to be an interesting exploration of the topic.

Business Secrets in Open Innovation

The POINT project (Building stronger Intellectual Property strategy capabilities: Supporting SMEs to succeed with Open Innovation. EASME/2019/OP/OO17) sought to provide an empirical basis for existing Open Innovation models and the extent to which IP – including patents, utility models, designs, but also trade secrets, data and know-how – facilitates or hinders Open Innovation.

The POINT project collected evidence from case studies from seven value chains in Europe and further afield. This evidence shows that soft-IP such as know-how and data account for >60% of the foreground-IP created in Open Innovation projects, with patents reported as only 14%.

Hard-IP like patents offers the advantage of showcasing ownership, protection and signalling innovativeness to the market – a necessary step to enable knowledge flows from one entity to another; but it is evident from the case studies Open Innovation partners are often more interested in the soft-IP of the other party. POINT reported that in-sharing of IP during Open Innovation collaborations nearly 70% of IP could be characterised as soft-IP – typically know-how and data.

Data as a source of value

We see sectors such as IoT / AI and ML where data is increasingly the core asset for deriving value. Such data is typically generated by sensors in an environments such as industrial facilities (factories, oil rigs and retail outlets); across wider environments (such as traffic monitoring / congestion monitoring within a city or district, pollution monitoring such as particulate detection); or globally (such as weather stations and atmospheric monitoring).

The AI and ML systems themselves may be “black box systems” – the actual function of the algorithm remaining unknown to even the developers.

Broadly this is due to the nature of machine learning where the systems are trained with suitable data to allow the system to “learn”. Hence the actual final state of the system is unknown – it is a black box.

Such systems are unlikely to be protected by patents, but more importantly the key to high performance / high accuracy systems is often the training data used.

Companies at the leading edge of the convergence of IoT and AI/ML are left with data as the only value drivers, without the ability to protect their business with hard-IP. Management of business secrets is therefore an increasingly important topic.