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I'm a PhD researcher at a U.S. university who has developed a new deep learning method for an application with a high potential economic impact. I have a pending patent and plan to start a company to commercialize the method. I also aim to publish the work in a relatively high impact journal, but I am worried that the editors/reviewers will require me to release my code to the public. In most cases, I believe open sharing of code in research should be done. But because I'm starting a company, I can't risk releasing my code/model to competitors. Not only will it hurt my competitive advantage, but it would also put off potential investors.

How should I proceed with publishing, given the circumstances?

Are there any examples of successful companies who navigated this path?

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  • I imagine if you’re going to publish, you’ll have to describe the algorithm, or a sketch of it, at least, otherwise you’d be publishing on a black box. I don’t think you’ll be required to make source available. Jan 7 at 19:59
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    What does the patent reveal? Remember that will be public.
    – Jon Custer
    Jan 7 at 20:05
  • These are good points. The patent and paper will describe the method, but I am trying to avoid releasing my specific implementation. I am comfortable revealing those broader details even though it will allow competitors to develop their own implementation. It's a trade-off I am willing to accept in order to contribute to the scientific literature. Jan 7 at 20:25

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Hire some good patent/IP lawyers. That is your main protection, though trade secrets and trademark can help as well. But "publishing" is to literally make public, and you have to satisfy any publisher that you reveal enough so that reviewers can trust your claims. That doesn't mean publishing your code, necessarily, but if claims aren't backed by evidence then they are less likely to be published (by a reputable house, at least).

The lawyers can advise you if you have sufficient patent protection for the life of the patent(s), but they eventually expire.

And, don't forget that reverse engineering is always a possibility for any "product", especially in the LLM AI era we are now in. But if competitors know how you do things they are still bound by patent.

And make sure you are covered internationally by those patents.

Finally, note that IP law has the intention of supporting the public good, not just inventors. That is why copyright and patent rights are time-limited.

Talk to your lawyers about what you can and should publish and what you should hold as trade secrets. It ain't free, of course.

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