Navigating intellectual property and cybersecurity challenges in the life sciences sector

In the ever-evolving fields of life sciences and health care, protecting intellectual property (IP) and trade secrets is more crucial than ever. Ruud van der Velden, partner in the Hogan Lovells Intellectual Property, Media, and Technology practice, and Chantal van Dam, counsel in the Global Regulatory practice, recently discussed the pivotal role of cybersecurity and trade secrets as part of a company’s risk mitigation strategy.

The critical role of IP

Intellectual Property rights are often a life sciences company’s “crown jewels”. These assets are fundamental not only for protecting innovation but also for maintaining a competitive edge in a technology-driven market. During the R&D phase, confidentiality is paramount to retaining the novelty of a product, which is a prerequisite for patent eligibility. Mr. van der Velden also discussed the synergy between patents and trade secrets, noting that while patents protect the methodological framework of innovations, trade secrets can safeguard the nuanced details that give a competitive advantage.

Cybersecurity threats on the rise

In the context of privacy and cybersecurity, Ms. Van Dam noted, life sciences companies face increasing threats from cybercriminals. These criminals no longer target only personal data but have shifted their focus towards other valuable data, such as trade secrets and other forms of IP. Loss or publication to the public of such valuable information can have a significant impact on the business. She cautioned that these assets may be particularly vulnerable to cyberattacks that seek to steal, encrypt, or exploit this information for ransom.

Legal framework for trade secrets

The EU Trade Secrets Directive serves as a backbone for defining and protecting trade secrets. Mr. van der Velden discussed each of the three criteria that classify information as a trade secret: secrecy, commercial value, with active measures taken to keep it secret. This legal framework provides companies with the tools to pursue litigation should their secrets be unlawfully exposed or stolen.

Protection strategies and adapting to new challenges

Companies need to have appropriate safeguards in place to protect their data. The panelists stressed the importance of having a robust internal cyber resilience strategy to mitigate risks. This may include, for example, technological solutions such as encryption and access control, legal measures such as non-disclosure agreements, and practical steps including employee training and awareness programs. Ensuring that employees understand what constitutes a trade secret and how to handle sensitive information is crucial for preventing leaks and maintaining security.

As technology advances, so do the methodologies of cybercriminals, requiring continuous updates to cybersecurity protocols and systems. Life sciences companies need to remain vigilant and proactive by regularly reviewing and updating their security measures to address new challenges.

Next steps

There is an intricate relationship between intellectual property, trade secrets, and cybersecurity within the life sciences sector. For companies in this field, staying informed and prepared is not just a matter of legal compliance but a crucial aspect of business strategy that directly impacts their capacity to innovate and compete. The discussion underscores the need for an integrated approach that encompasses legal, technical, and educational components to protect the valuable data that drives progress in life sciences.



Authored by Ruud van der Velden and Chantal van Dam.


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