Elon Law scholar weighs trade secrecy vs. COVID medicine for STAT

A guest column by Professor David S. Levine in STAT, one of the nation's most influential news sources related to health and medicine, warns that existing trade secrecy laws could slow the discovery and production of therapeutics in today's global pandemic.

Professor David S. Levine

Trade secrecy law helps companies maintain a competitive advantage in the marketplace – especially industries reliant on extensive research and development – but according to one Elon Law legal scholar, “the time is now to examine, and reexamine, trade secrecy’s hold on information and our collective health.”

Professor David S. Levine authored a STAT column on July 10, 2020, in which he points out that “intellectual property law and innovation may actually be a critical barrier to our ability to rapidly, effectively, affordably, and safely solve the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Published by the Boston Globe Media, STAT is one of the nation’s largest and most influential news services covering health and medicine.

“There are two hard questions about trade secrets: When should a trade secret be shared more broadly? And under what circumstances?” Levine writes in “Covid-19 should spark a reexamination of trade secrets’ stranglehold on information”. “Unfortunately, trade secret law has little to say about these issues. While independent discovery and reverse engineering end trade secret protection, and there are limited circumstantial trade secrets exceptions for whistleblowers, journalists, and criminal defendants, trade secret law generally operates to empower the owners of trade secrets to control if, when, and how their secrets are shared.

“As a result, unless a trade secret owner licenses the information, the secret remains locked up by the owner, perhaps forever.”

Levine joined the Elon Law faculty in 2009 and has developed an international reputation for his legal research into the areas of lawmaking, trade secrecy, and the ways in which corporations and governments use the law to control access to intellectual property.

An affiliate scholar at the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School, Levine also was a fellow at Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy from 2014-2017. He is the founder and host of Stanford University’s KZSU-FM “Hearsay Culture,” an information policy, intellectual property law and technology talk show, and he co-authored the 2019 textbook “Information Law, Governance, and Cybersecurity.”

In recognition of his scholarly work, Levine was named the Jennings Professor and Emerging Scholar at Elon Law for 2017-2019.