Farmer attitudes to their intellectual property (IP) may be on the verge of a major change over the next 5 to 10 years. And it’s important that farmers start protecting their interests along the way.
Big data is changing the way we understand farms and the way we value them. All the data collected about livestock, land and growing conditions has value. Good data helps a farmer build more efficient and profitable farming systems. In time, poor data may be the reason a farm loses its competitive edge.
Traditionally there has been little reason for farmers to protect their IP and it hasn’t been thought to have great value. The financial value of business processes and farming methods has been difficult to quantify. That may be changing and the long term consequences could be significant.
So just what IP does your farm actually possess? Modern farm IP can be thought of as falling into two categories of data:
- The first is the business information of the farm itself: sales history, profitability and the data that helps a farmer decide which business decisions to make.
- The second is the technical, scientific and agronomic data about the farm itself. This is valuable as a single set of data or as part of a larger collective set. The value of the IP builds each year and our ability to store and collate data gets better too.
Business information and technical data can be used in tandem to cut costs, increase efficiency and raise profitability. As the average size of farms continue to grow the use of data can create a more efficient way to manage at scale.
In the long term it’s conceivable that IP information about a farm could directly influence its value. Neighbouring farms could develop a competitive advantage and potential purchasers with access to farm data could better differentiate one property from another.
Understanding the long term value of farm IP and data is still in its infancy but farmers need to be thinking about their rights today.
The takeaway message is that farmers need to have exclusive ownership of the IP and the right to protect their data for the long term. Some tips for managing your IP on the farm:
- Think of your IP as a new asset with growing value
- Big data and IP are not just for technicians
- Be very careful when signing any agreements about your data, particularly where terms and conditions look one sided
- Seek advice about who owns your data
- If you are sharing the data, make sure you and the farm are the ultimate owner