With the advent of precision agriculture, there is a lot of data created on farm. By logic or by law, farmer should own the data generated on the farm. To avail the services of other stakeholders like machinery provider, input suppliers, precision equipment suppliers and others, farmer has to supply (or upload) data in digital form.
Is there any data ownership which can be claimed by the farmer once the data is shared to third party (other stakeholders)?
Let’s understand an overview of agri data. Agri data is neither recognised under traditional type of property (land, building, good and animals) nor any traditional intellectual property (patent, trademark and copyright). Now, there are two situations left:
1. Trade Secret
- Trade secret is some specific information available with the farmer which can’t be easily identified by another person and have some economic value.
- Legal definition of trade secret: Information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process, that: derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable by proper means by, other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use, and (ii) is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy.
2. State law
- For protecting agri data, government enact law to prohibit the copying and distribution of data without farmer’s consent.
Maintaining and proving Agri Data as a Trade Secret is a very complicated and cumbersome process. There are no such Agri Data specific state laws as it is a very new topic in the legal fraternity. What's the option then?
The only fool-proof solution left in the case of agri data is, “individual contract agreements to treat agri data as a protected trade secret”.
Contract Agreement must include 10 points discussed below.
Consent: Collection, access and use of farm data should include consent of the farmer with proper signed (or digital) agreement.
Notification: Farmers must be notified for the collected data with proper details about it’s usage.
Complaint Redressal: Proper complaint redressal mechanism with full transparency.
Features: Defining the availability of services and features when the farmer make choices for opt-in and opt-out.
Portability: Data portability and data retrieval for storage and usage in other systems.
Confidentiality: A clause for not sharing or disclosing the farm data with a third party in any matter that is inconsistent with the contract agreement.
Retrieval: Farmer should have the authority to discontinue the services and collection of data. Services discontinuation should be supported with an option of retrieval and secured destruction of collected data.
Misuse protection: Prohibition of data for anti-competitive activities like speculation in commodity markets based on inputs from the farm data.
Safeguards: Clearly define liability and security safeguards for loss or unauthorized access, destruction, use, modification and disclosure.
Policy: Notice and response policy for agreement breach.
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