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Much effort is put in putting together (M)SDS documents:

Many companies offer the service of collecting, or writing and revising, data sheets to ensure they are up to date and available for their subscribers or users. Some jurisdictions impose an explicit duty of care that each SDS be regularly updated, usually every three to five years. However, when new information becomes available, the SDS must be revised without delay.

Are there any intellectual property (IP) limitations on MSDS documents? i.e. are they copyrighted?

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A really nice question. First, let's point out that specifics about these issues will vary from country to country, as they all relate to the laws of that country. Secondly, let's clarify that copyright and IP aren't exactly the same. Copyright covers the exclusive right of that owner to make copies, license and otherwise exploit their works (printed, artistic etc). Intellectual property is property that results from creative thought, and can include patents, copyrighted material and trademarks. So, IP is a bit like an umbrella that encompasses copyright material.

The specifics relating to copyright and IP differ slightly from country to country, but it is safe to say that the (M)SDS document is a copyrighted document. Most SDS documents will have this specified, usually at the very end of the document - I just checked some of the ones I have on file from commercial suppliers, and they all have a copyright statement. This means that you cannot make copies etc under the usual copyright limitations.

There are requirements about what information goes into a SDS. Again, there will be differences from country to country, but for the US, for example, I think all hazardous components above 1% must be specified, and known carcinogens above 0.1% must also be listed. The exact numbers might be a little different, but the general gist is that hazardous components must be listed.

HOWEVER, every country has a clause in their code governing SDS requirements that specifies, essentially, an exemption from listing ingredients that may be regarded as a 'trade secret', or puts at risk an identified Intellectual Property claim. How this is expressed varies; in some countries, a trade name may be used to 'hide' the true identity of a IP-protected ingredient. In other countries, a summary of functional groups can be used to represent that key ingredient. Usually, though, the nature of the hazard must be represented somehow on the SDS document. I know in some countries, even if an ingredient is protected by an IP clause, its true identity must be revealed to health practitioners if requested. I'd have to dig around for the exact laws for each country/zone if you needed more specific answers.

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  • $\begingroup$ Would it be considered "fair use" or so if I reformat an existing sds? For example mass-converting sigma's pdf files into a publicly available html format? $\endgroup$
    – Sparkler
    Feb 5 '16 at 0:24
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    $\begingroup$ @Sparkler (caveat) I am not a lawyer, but I would say no. By Sigma, do you mean Sigma-Aldrich? They have at the bottom of each SDS the copyright declaration: "Copyright XXXX Sigma-Aldrich Co. LLC. License granted to make unlimited paper copies for internal use only." Sigma chemicals, Australia, do not have this copyright statement on their SDS, but in most parts of the world copyright does not have to be explicitly stated. $\endgroup$
    – long
    Feb 5 '16 at 0:36

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