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Thanks to Todd Janzen, @janzenlaw,  for pointing out these data related issues in ag:

Feel Free to Hack your Tractor John Deere's claim to  US Copyright Office cl:  aiming that it licenses tractor  software to farmers caused WIRED magazine claim that John Deere owns your tractor.  The US Copyright Office  decided that farmers should be able to repair and modify their tractor's software, in spite of copyright protection.  SO WIRED got it wrong along with John Deere.

On the bigger issue of ag data ownership:

Companies are forming now to advise landowners on the best possible rental rates for their investment based on yield, soil and other data. It is commonly referred to as Ag Data.  Having access to that data will be the difference between a company that provides value and one that only provides snake oil and herbal based remedies.The concept of ag data "ownership" is not recognized by United States law.  Farmers like to say "I own my ag data."  Ag technology companies like to say "the farmer owns their data." And you need a release to get it.  And the industry representatives like to say "the farmer should down their data."  But the reality is that "ownership" is a legal principle that must be recognized by courts or a law, and that has not yet happened in the United States for ag data.

Ownership-the right of possession, use, control, and to exclude others of the same-has long been classified different ways in the United States depending on what type of property is being "owned."  The courts recognize   three forms of property.

Real Property.  As much as I don' t like anything English, the  Courts in England granted an owner of real property a number of rights, such as the right to exclude others, and the right grant others a lesser estate (such as tenancy) in land. That is where the term landlord comes from, though I am on a mission to replace it with landowner.

Personal Property. Personal property can be more easily transferred or shared than real property.  Things like cars, horses, cattle and paper are personal property. So might be a chicken shed on skids. Should a shed stay when a lease ends or should the tenant be allowed to take it with him? The answer depends on whether it is "real" or "personal" property. Personal property is generally movable while real property is not.


Intellectual Property. Congress added another category of property to address ownership of intangible objects- "intellectual property" or "IP".  IP law is based off of passed law, not judicial rulings. It   protects inventions (patents), creative works (copyrights), and trademarks.  IP law also protects trade secrets, such as the formula for Coca-Cola.  No laws that  specifically recognize ag data, but it might be a trade secret.

What does this mean for "ownership" of ag data?   Ag data is a mix of real, personal, and intellectual property. Yield data, for example is information linked to the land, like real property.  Yield data is also highly portable, like personal property.  But it also contains valuable information, like intellectual property.  Those characteristics make ag data unique from other forms of property.  Farmers can own real, personal, and intellectual property, but ag data is hybrid of all three.   

If the farmer owns the field, the farmer owns the equipment that creates the data, and the farmer generates the data.  But when others are involved in creating that ag data form of property, ownership becomes a more difficult question. For example, when you hire a drone to do the overflights and provide you a report, who owns the raw data?Less Competition rarely means lower prices Dow and DuPont are in the process of merging, which will narrow down an already narrow band of  broad spectrum input suppliers for critical element of a farm operation. Further, John Deere scooped up Precision planting, which was Monsanto's incursion into the precision ag market.  Electronics and Ag is going away anytime soon and what we call precision ag will be just regular ag in a generation I am positive.

Sunday, July 12, 2020
  • Patrick B. Dillon
  • Jill Dillon
Dillon Law PC
Patrick B. Dillon enjoys finding solutions to legal issues and catching problems for clients. Pat practices in the Sumner office regularly represents clients in district, associate district and magistrate courts for agricultural, real estate, criminal and collection issues. He drafts wills and trusts, creates estate plans and helps clients through the probate process.
Dillon Law PC
Jill Dillon focuses on family law, estate planning and IRS matters. Jill is a University of Northern Iowa undergraduate (Political Science Cum Laude) and a Drake University Law School graduate. Jill spent extensive time advocating for low income tax payers in front of the IRS and the State of Iowa Department of Revenue while at Drake.

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