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Protecting Big Data in the Big Leagues: Trade Secrets in Professional Sports

48 Pages Posted: 1 Feb 2017  

Lara Grow

University of Georgia

Nathaniel Grow

Indiana University - Kelley School of Business - Department of Business Law

Date Written: January 30, 2017

Abstract

The protection of trade secrets within the professional sports industry became a hot-button issue in the summer of 2015, after news reports emerged revealing that officials from Major League Baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals were under federal investigation for having illegally accessed proprietary information belonging to their league rival, the Houston Astros. Indeed, professional sports teams in the United States and Canada often possess various forms of proprietary information or processes — ranging from scouting reports and statistical analyses to dietary regimens and psychological assessment techniques — giving them a potential competitive advantage over their rivals. Unfortunately, as with the rest of the economy at-large, little empirical data exists regarding either the types of proprietary information owned by these teams, or the measures that teams are taking to protect their trade secrets.

Drawing upon freshly collected survey data, this article helps to fill this void in the literature by providing novel empirical evidence regarding the modern trade secret practices of the teams in the four major North American professional sports leagues. Based on the results of a first-of-its-kind survey conducted in the spring of 2016 of the general counsels of teams in the four major leagues, the article sheds light on both the types of information subjected to trade secret assertion by these firms, as well as the methods they are using to safeguard their data. In the process, the article examines the implications of these survey results for the professional sports industry, while also identifying potential new lines of inquiry for future trade secret research.

Keywords: Trade Secrets, Sports, Baseball, Basketball, Football, Hockey, MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, Analytics

Suggested Citation

Grow, Lara and Grow, Nathaniel, Protecting Big Data in the Big Leagues: Trade Secrets in Professional Sports (January 30, 2017). Washington and Lee Law Review, Vol. 74, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2908287

Lara Grow

University of Georgia ( email )

Athens, GA 30602-6254
United States

Nathaniel Grow (Contact Author)

Indiana University - Kelley School of Business - Department of Business Law ( email )

Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

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