Friday, June 1, 2012

Wants to Protect Database/Dataset

Dear Rich: I am a long time business professional that has formulated an idea for a new business venture. I have developed a process for utilizing both proprietary (generated through commissioned market research) and non-proprietary (purchased from another firm) data in such a way that would allow me to merge them to create an enriched data set. Using this enriched data set, I have plans to develop a database that allows me to build analytical tools that can be sold or licensed. Is there a way for me to protect the idea, process, methodology in a concrete manner? If so, what path do I take and what type of detail would I need to provide? The reason for my question is that inherent in selling the "value proposition" would be a need to disclose a fair amount of detail of the process so as to demonstrate the product value. Wow, sorry it took so long to answer this but we had to research "value proposition," and then once we did that, we spent a long time wondering about whether the Dear Rich Staff is offering its customers a suitable VP. Then we got sidetracked creating animated GIFs and entirely lost our train of thought. Ennyway, we think you really have two questions and we'll address them separately.
(1) Is there a way to protect a database that consists of publicly available research and original material? Copyright offers fairly limited protection for compilations of data, particularly if portions of the data are publicly available. The owner has to demonstrate that the selection, coordination, or arrangement of the materials is original. To prove infringement of factual compilations, for example, you generally must show verbatim copying. The more popular method of protecting databases is with end user licenses restricting how the material can be used. Other database users attempt to protect their sites with encryption or passwords. However, these precautions may have little effect. For example, one court permitted a company to use a "spider" to scrape public domain data from a competitor's website. Alas, the copyright circular on protecting automated databases (Circular 65) is currently being revised
(2) What's the best way to disclose information about that database to third parties such as investors? If your database is not publicly accessible,  the best way to disclose information about it is under the terms of a nondisclosure agreement. We've posted examples you can use at our NDA site.