Are You Protecting the Composition or Process?

There is sea-change happening in the market, and it can be summed up in two words: more transparency.

As product stewards grapple with the delicate balance between sharing information and protecting intellectual property, manufacturer Evonik has found a way to move forward.

“We’re mindful that there are increasing questions about compositions and materials about chemicals, about products. We also need to protect our information because that’s our competitive advantage,” says Shaun​ Clancy, director of product stewardship for Evonik. “We challenge our businesses to think about, what is really the thing that’s the secret. What is the important innovation to protect?”

For example, if the specific chemical makeup of the product is the secret, it would be impossible to share the composition without giving away intellectual property. That is, if a competitor knew the components or the concentrations, they would be able to reproduce the technology.

“In other cases, though, it’s how you put it all together,” says Clancy. “What people are asking for oftentimes are compositions. If the process is the secret and not the composition, then they could consider divulging the composition and keeping the manufacturing process as the secret.”

Clancy points out that transparency is not inherently bad for business. “To protect information is a cost,” he says. “The more we can be transparent, the more our costs go down.”

On whether the rest of the industry shares this view, he says. “I cannot tell you there’s a consistent view, but it’s a discussion that’s going on in most if not all companies that are doing innovation.”

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