House Bill 116 was signed March 19 by Gov. Phil Bryant and will take effect July 1. The bill aims to protect important university research from companies and other competitors trying to steal such research for their own ends, according to bill author Rep. Nolan Mettetal, chairman of the House Universities and Colleges Committee.

"We just don't want the theft of intellectual properties," Mettetal told the Daily Journal. "This research means a great deal for our state and nation."

A number of other states already offer such protection to university research and Mississippi university officials were unaware they didn't already have a similar exemption from public access laws.

"We believe it was purely an oversight. It had not come to our attention until last year when we saw in some trade publications that the issue was being raised in other states,"  David Shaw, vice president for research and economic development at Mississippi State University, told the Daily Journal. When we saw it, we decided we needed to be proactive in protecting our people."

Similar laws have come under fire from some, who claim protecting universities' intellectual property is an excuse to hide research from the public eye.

- With files from the Daily Journal and Open States