Trade secrets and public-private partnerships

I attended the CIS lunch speaker series yesterday where CIS Fellow David Levine gave an overview of his article about trade secrecy law and how it should be altered (or abolished) in the context of public-private partnerships. The paper is a well-researched and in-depth historic analysis of trade secrets law as it relates to public infrastructures, and proposes solutions to the difficult issue of whether trade secret law should apply to the works of private entities for public infrastructures. David's paper focuses on public infrastructures like voting machines, municipal wi-fi, and internet routers.

The Q&A following his discussion touched on questions of the role of other IP protections (like copyright, DMCA, patent) in solving this problem, whether a federal Trade Secret law would make sense, and whether we might end up with second-rate public infrastructures if private entities were not allowed to protect their IP through trade secrets. I asked if he'd seen this issue addressed in other democratic nations, and if we can learn any lessons from how those democracies have dealt with this problem. Interestingly, David explained that in other democracies (like Australia), there appear to be more private entities running traditionally government infrastructures (like toll roads or prisons), but at least in the case of Australia there is much greater oversight by the government of those private entities than is typically the case in the US.

David recommended the book, Open Innovation, by Henry W. Chesbrough, for some additional reading on open infrastructures.... one more for my already too long reading list.

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