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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House Passes 2020 NDAA

On Friday, July 12, 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.

While this passage may lead to an uncharacteristic political fight over appropriations, contractors will be watching whether the U.S. Senate and House bills ultimately agree upon the less politically-charged sections likely to impact their businesses.

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2020 NDAA: Contractors Supplying Technical Data to Receive Protection of Data Rights During Challenges, Again

The draft 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, if enacted, will revoke the government’s ability to exercise rights in technical data during a supplier’s challenge to the contracting officer’s decision as to the validity of the asserted “use or release restrictions” on that data. It would reinstate the previous safeguard afforded to data suppliers, allowing them to protect their valuable–and often irreplaceable–intellectual property rights unless and until the contracting officer’s decision to remove the restrictions is sustained.

Keep in mind, this is just a draft provision, as the Senate version of the 2020 NDAA doesn’t contain the provision discussed in this blog.

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Proprietary Information Proper Basis for Restricted Solicitation Terms

While the overarching goal of the federal procurement system is to provide as many opportunities for competition as possible, there are those instances where the unique circumstances of a procurement require limiting the pool of offerors.

In a recent decision, GAO determined that the need for proprietary maintenance information was a sufficient reason to limit competition.

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