Data Rights and the Government Contractor: Restricted Computer Software

After going over limited data rights in our last post on intellectual property in government contracts, it is only natural we discuss the similar but distinct concept of restricted computer software. As we noted in the limited data rights post, this only concerns contracts regulated by FAR, or, in other words, non-Department of Defense contracts. If you’re dealing with the Department of Defense, the Defense Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) applies. DFARS has similar provisions but also differs in meaningful ways. We’ll discuss DFARS at a later post.

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Loose Lips Sink Ships: Award Revoked for Relying on Inside Information from Former Navy Officials

We want to make something clear: simply having a former government official as an employee does not mean your company can’t bid on federal contracts or needs to let that person go. The government, while it puts certain restrictions in place, doesn’t forbid government contractors from hiring former government employees, and it can be very beneficial to have employees with such experience and still perfectly ethical. What it does forbid is when the company is or even just appears to be getting some sort of unfair advantage in acquiring contracts as a result of having former government workers as employees. For example, what if the contractor hires someone who was with the procuring agency and had access to information on competitors for an upcoming solicitation? This is the sort of thing that will result in awards being lost, as one company learned.

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GAO Finds CIO-SP4 Unduly Restrictive; Recommends Amendment

For practically the entire summer of 2021, we observed (and commented on) NIH’s numerous amendments to its long-awaited CIO-SP4 solicitation after it was finally issued in May 2021. By the time the deadline for proposals finally came, it had been amended eleven (!) times. Even with all those amendments, however, it appears that at least one offeror still had serious concerns about the final version. As it turns out, at least some of their concerns were warranted, per GAO, and has recommended the agency to amend the solicitation or revise its evaluation criteria.

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Data Rights and the Government Contractor: Limited Data Rights

In our last post on intellectual property and government contracts, we went over a basic discussion about data rights and then addressed the matter of unlimited data rights for the government. As discussed, unlimited data rights basically give the government free rein to do as they wish with the data. More importantly, the FAR provides that such unlimited data rights are the government’s default rights. But there is a way to limit the government’s rights: limited data rights.

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Data Rights and the Government Contractor: An Introduction and Unlimited Data Rights

Ask any attorney, and there’s a good chance they’d agree with this statement: Intellectual property is a particularly complex area of law. Dealing with property rights in things that don’t physically exist, unsurprisingly, can result in a lot of confusion. Couple this with the labyrinthine regulations and rules concerning government contracts and procurements, and even the most experienced contractor can be left confused with a pounding headache.

To help clear up these murky waters, this post will be the first in a series of posts reviewing some of the basics of intellectual property rules in government contracts. We will start by going over data rights, as perhaps no subject in this field is more difficult than dealing with data rights. While I think we’re getting to the point in history where we can stop referring to computers and the internet as a novel technology (The internet as we know it is over thirty years old!), the law around data rights is still relatively new and rough around the edges. In this post, we will review the general concept and the rules regarding “unlimited rights” in data.

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NAICS, The Final Frontier: OHA Rejects NAICS Size Standard Exception as Inapplicable to NASA Solicitation

This matter again involves NASA and a particularly interesting government procurement, this time concerning NAICS appeals. NAICS codes, or the North American Industry Classification System codes, are how both businesses are classified by their industry and procurements are classified by what they’re for. If the procurement uses an inappropriate NAICS code, a protestor can appeal this code determination. It is important to note that some NAICS codes have “exceptions” which can affect their corresponding size standards. For example, NAICS code 541330, “Engineering,” has a size standard of $16.5 million, but, if the engineering services are for military equipment and weapons, an exception applies that balloons the size standard to $35.5 million. But, just like regular NAICS codes, these exceptions have to make sense in light of the kind of solicitation in question, leading us to this matter.

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Small Business Being Acquired by a Large Business? For Multiple Award Contracts, the 180-Day Rule Doesn’t Apply to Task Orders, says GAO

You may recall a post of ours back in April 2021, where we discussed a little-known change to SBA’s size determination rules that occurred in October 2020. SBA created an exception, at 13 C.F.R. § 121.404(g)(2)(iii), to the usual “size is determined at offer date” rule. Now, prior to award, when a small business is part of a merger or acquisition after it makes an offer on a solicitation, the business has to recertify its size, and depending on when that acquisition occurred, if the business is now large, it may lose its award.

However, the rule is for better or worse not that straightforward, as a small business learned in a recent GAO decision. Because a part of the rule says that task order awards in such cases may not be treated as small business awards, GAO concluded that such awards are still allowed.

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