Public Disclosure Requirements

Full* Disclosure: A Middle Road in Fracking Fluid Law

Many oil and gas companies operate within incredibly tight margins and subject to ever-volatile commodity market prices. In such a competitive sector, the ability to innovate with improved extraction and transmission techniques can be make-or-break.  As we have previously written, one way to gain an advantage in the process of hydraulic fracturing is to use specially chosen or designed chemical additives that can make a frack job more successful than it otherwise may be. Oil and gas companies often rely on trade secrecy to protect these special fracking fluid compositions.  As can be expected, many environmental groups express concern that these chemicals could contaminate groundwater and, in turn, argue that landowners and the public have a right to know if potentially harmful chemicals are being injected into the ground. READ MORE

PUT YOUR DOCS WHERE I CAN SEE THEM: Seattle Police Enjoined From Disclosing Software Secrets in Public Records Act Dispute

What happens when trade secret protections collide with laws granting public access to government records? This question took center stage in a recent case involving the Seattle Police Department (“SPD”). A federal district court enjoined the SPD from disclosing a software vendor’s allegedly trade secret information in response to a reporter’s public records act request.  Besides serving as a reminder of the precautions that companies should take when disclosing intellectual property to public agencies, the case also raises interesting questions and strategic considerations. READ MORE

Senate Bill in Georgia Seeks to Expand Scope of Trade Secret Protection

On February 2, 2016, Georgia State Senator Hunter Hill introduced Senate Bill 321 in the Georgia Senate. The bill is entitled “Commerce and Trade; state government; protections against public disclosure of certain information.” The bill has 36 co-sponsors, all of whom, like Hill, are Republican.  READ MORE

Trade Secrets Protected From Disclosure Under FOIA…Except For When They Aren’t

We have previously reported about protecting trade secrets from disclosure after a FOIA request here and here. There is something to be said for immediate action and intervening to protect your trade secrets, but sometimes that just isn’t enough.

In a recent decision, the Central District of California denied a protective order for several documents submitted to the government that Exxon contended contain trade secrets. READ MORE

DEFENSES AGAINST FOIA: Non-Profit Planned Parenthood Succeeds In Keeping Operations Manual Secret

When inquiring minds want to know, non-profit organizations now have a stronger response.  Last year, we posed the question: Can a non-profit maintain trade secrets and other confidential commercial information? The First Circuit recently answered our question:  “yes.”  READ MORE

Settlement Reached in Wyoming Fracking Disclosure Lawsuit: Heavier Burden of Proof for Companies Claiming Trade Secret or Confidentiality Protections

As we’ve previously discussed, a patchwork of state regulations requiring disclosure of chemicals used in fracking have been enacted by several states in recent years.  One such regulation was by the State of Wyoming.  While environmental groups initially lauded Wyoming’s new rule, the applause was short-lived as the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission began granting trade secret exemptions that prevented disclosure of this information to the public under the state public records act.  This led the environmental groups to sue the Commission.  After nearly three years of litigation, including an appeal to the Wyoming Supreme Court, the parties reached a settlement that was approved by the state district court late last month.

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Highly-Protected Secrets: Competitors Try to Keep Legal Secrets in the Quasi-Legal Marijuana Industry

How do you use the law to keep something unlawful a secret?  This and related questions arise as more states legalize marijuana for medical use, recreational use, or both.  As an illicit industry emerges from the shadows, competition and the substantial investments necessary to grow, package, and sell marijuana were bound to get rolled up in trade secrecy law at some point. READ MORE

FLORIDA SUNSHINE? State High Court Orders Gerrymandering Documents Made Public, Justice Thomas Rejects Last-Minute Appeal

This past summer, we reported on an emergency petition to Justice Clarence Thomas of the United States Supreme Court to stay a Florida Supreme Court’s decision permitting disclosure of documents submitted under seal during a trial challenging Florida legislature’s redistricting process.  The emergency petition was filed by Patrick Bainter and Data Targeting, Inc., political consultants hired by the Republican Party of Florida to assist with the redistricting process in that state.  At issue in the petition were more than 500 pages of documents that purportedly contained confidential READ MORE

Stop and Smell the Trade Secrets, Part II: Two Major Companies Voluntarily Disclose Fragrance Ingredient Information

Do you know which chemical ingredients create that complex smell in your favorite deodorant, cologne, or perfume?  For years, the answer has been a resounding no.  Historically, the consumer products industry has relied on trade secret protection to avoid disclosing natural and synthetic chemical “fragrance” ingredients in its products.  However, in the last two months, several multinational companies, including the Clorox Co. and SC Johnson, have voluntarily disclosed the “fragrance” ingredients in their products. These affirmative steps signal that companies are increasingly trying to balance consumer safety concerns with trade secret protection. READ MORE

Hedge Fund Hack Results in Trade Secret Loss, and Raises SEC Reporting Issues

Data breaches may be nothing new, but they are certainly evolving into bigger and more notorious infractions. While the data breaches of yesterday may have involved accidental disclosure or disgruntled former employees, the data breaches of today are often carried out by outsiders and highly organized and sophisticated criminal groups. And hackers aren’t just after credit card information, they are often seeking proprietary information. In short: trade secrets, watch out. READ MORE