Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed House Bill 116 on March 19, and it will become law on July 1. The bill will extend trade secret protections to universities and community colleges through exempting commercial, scientific or technical research materials from the state's Open Records Act until the research is published, according to Claims Journal.
Rep. Nolan Mettetal, R - Sardis, chairman of the House Universities and Colleges Committee and the bill's author, said the loophole in the law was sometimes taken advantage of by companies using public-records requests to get details of university or college research.
"We just don't want the theft of intellectual properties," Mettetal said. "This research means a great deal for our state and nation."
Among the research programs taking place in Mississippi are the University of Southern Mississippi's polymer science program, research and development of drones at Mississippi State University, Jackson State's disease research and many more. This bill will protect research stemming from those programs until it is published, at which time patent and other intellectual property laws will afford their own protection.
Lawmakers and educators both say they were not aware of the existing loophole in Mississippi legislation that could allow businesses to access research in progress, and are glad for a fix to that issue.