Sön 5 dec / År 39 / Nr 4 2021

SYNERGON addresses challenges in protecting valuable knowledge

Patenting has long been and is still a central part of the life science industry’s core activities and funding. The business and impact of patents has however changed with time, as more and more ideas go digital. The biggest challenge with this development is to know how and when to protect valuable knowledge, as IP, so that the knowledge can benefit the company goals and boost further development, commercially and scientifically.

New solutions of today are often based on digital innovations that are generally more difficult to protect than for example pharmaceutical compounds. Sometimes it is not even possible to patent a digital product, due to the fact that the product is lacking the technical effect that is a general requirement for patenting.
In such cases, other frameworks for protection might be applicable, such as copyright or structures for trade secret protection. Keeping track of what can and should be patented as well as be protected by other means pose a major challenge for today’s companies within Life Science, often operating somewhere in between the physical laboratory and the digital sphere.
Due to the complexity of these innovations, it is often necessary to create a patchwork of different ways to protect the different components the innovation consists of. In cases where it is still possible to obtain patent protection, it can in some cases be unfavourable to go down this path since the technology is advancing so fast that the patented invention may become outdated before the product even reaches the market.

What about Open Source?
Almost everyone who builds software today uses the help of open source libraries in their development. Source code is almost always protected by copyright, even if the source code is distributed under an open source license. Since the open source license is an agreement between the copyright holder and whoever implements the source code in a software, the use of the code is subject to certain provisions stated in the terms of the license.
“If you have used Open Source in any parts of your development, then special conditions may apply to how the product may be used or distributed. There is a lot to keep track of, often far too much for a single executive with responsibility for a team of developers. Therefore, we suggest to our clients that they use tools for tracking of open source libraries in their repositories, to ensure the compliance with the terms in the licenses.”, says Christopher Nävås.

Protecting valuable knowledge
By distributing a software containing open source components without knowing the terms in each of these licenses, the company is exposing itself to a potentially significant legal risk with regards to lawsuits with possibly severe consequences for the business. In addition, one should be aware of that open source components are also accessible for hackers, hence, without proper management, the open source components might be a security vulnerability in the software. Therefore, it is essential for all companies developing software to have an organisational structure in place for managing open source components and tools in place that assures a correct management of licenses and vulnerabilities.
Getting these structures in place can be both time consuming and costly, however, by being strategic when setting up the structure this can be made rather cost efficient. SYNERGON is specialised in setting up these structures. “Because the answer is not to stop using open source, but to manage it correctly.” says Christopher Nävås.

SYNERGON in brief
SYNERGON is an IP department on demand, focused on Life Science and digital innovations. SYNERGON assists their clients in all types of IP-strategic issues, such as patent portfolio management and planning, IP-budgeting and management of trade secrets, with a high focus on commercial viability.