With increasing digitisation, data itself is becoming a product. This necessarily brings the question of the rights of disposal over this data (Intellectual Property Rights, IPR) into focus: Who owns the data? Who is allowed to use the data, how, and for how long? In order to determine the value of data and then subsequently preserve it, data must be sufficiently documented, comprehensibly managed and archived. In this context, a functional role in dealing with data as well as data management has emerged: the “(Business) Data Steward”. But what is the role of a data steward in creating value from data and commercialisation? And how can a (business) data steward help to create value from data as a product?
To get to the bottom of all these questions, the Data Intelligence Offensive (DIO) in cooperation with the EU Horizon 2020 project TRUSTS – Trusted Secure Data Sharing Space organised two hands-on online workshops on 1 June 2021. The workshops were introduced with short inputs on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in data sharing as well as data stewardship and commercialisation of data. Brainstorming sessions allowed participants to discuss their own experiences and expectations.
Intellectual property rights (IPR) in data exchange
Norbert Amlacher, head of the DIO working group Data and Law, opened with a short presentation on IPR in data exchange. Among other things, he spoke about who has access to data and how. Is this the owner of the sensor (owner of a production machine or a car, etc.) or the manufacturer of the sensor (as currently still in the example of sensors in vehicles)?
Austrian property law does not provide much information. Especially because it lacks a pure definition of the term data. Moreover, Austrian property law distinguishes between ownership and possession, which is why Mr. Amlacher explained: “According to prevailing opinion, you can only get ownership of physical things. That means if you say data is not a physical thing, then I can’t have data ownership.” Nevertheless, data trade is possible because the allocation of specific powers can be regulated by contract.
Data Stewardship and Commercialisation of Data
In the second workshop, Dipl.-Ing. Axel Quitt, DIO Data Steward, explained that the way data is used has a significant impact on the role of the data steward. In the beginning, data were considered process results that were administered. But over time, the use and therefore the value creation of data changed: from data as a process enabler to data as a product enabler to data as a product. According to Axel Quitt, the key question is: “Where are the tasks summarised that organisationally ensure that the data can be used in the respective constructs of the data economy in the appropriate quality, at the right time and with the appropriately correctly assigned value creation? This is a field that is unoccupied. That can be the role of the data steward, but it can also develop in a completely different way.”
Brainstorming sessions: the desire for guidlines
After the short inputs, the participants were divided into brainstorming sessions where they shared their experiences or the organisation’s handling of intellectual property and gave suggestions on levels of protection and pragmatic solutions.
What emerged was the complexity of dealing with IPR and the desire for guidelines to make it easier. Participants agreed that these need to be uniformly regulated and communicated at EU level, as data is worked with across borders. The difficulty for organisations/institutions with regard to IPR arises from the fact that data collection is the actual effort. IPR rules and clearly defined terms are needed here: Data Sharing Agreements, Data Ownership, etc. The participants agreed that in the long term, IPR protection can only be achieved with data certificates.