March 12, 2017 12:51 am JST

Big data to get intellectual property protection in Japan

Companies would be freer to sell information they now collect and hoard

© Reuters

TOKYO -- The Japanese government is taking steps that would make data on where your car has been driven or where your mobile phone has been the intellectual property of the companies that collect and store it.

The idea is to unlock vast treasure troves of data and let new industries blossom.

Companies will be able to protect data as intellectual property if amassing and storing it required a great deal of investment and effort. The data must also be deemed "valuable" to business activity.

Still under consideration is how the data would be registered and the terms of how it could be used. Once these matters are finalized, registered data could be licensed to other parties.

Users who abuse the data would be punished by losing their access to it.

A panel organized within the Intellectual Property Strategy Headquarters and helmed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will propose the new system on Monday.

The government could submit a bill to revise the Unfair Competition Prevention Law during the ordinary Diet session to be convened next year. The bill stipulates how big data must be protected.

Today, massive amounts of digital data can be quickly and easily collected. However, these stacks of data currently lack the kind of protections afforded to intellectual property. The government says this has created a situation where companies keep their data to themselves out of fear of it being misused.

By establishing a system in which big data can be effectively traded, the government hopes to generate new industries, products and services.  

For instance, new types of insurance policies could be developed by analyzing automobile driving data. And perhaps data could be collected that helps to locate roads in need of repair.

Mobile phone location information, meanwhile, could be used by taxi operators wanting to send cars to where the most fares are.

(Nikkei)

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