The Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) grants the public a powerful right of access to records in the possession of federal agencies. However, this right of access is subject to nine distinct exemptions. As demonstrated by D.C. District Court Judge Trevor N. McFadden’s opinion in Story of Stuff Project v. United States Forest Service, it is relatively easy for the federal government to withhold records under Exemption 4 which protects “trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person” which are “privileged or confidential.” 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(4). 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
FROM THE ARCHIVES: The Role of Alleged Trade Secrets Forensic Evidence in the Amanda Knox Murder Case
Italy’s high court has taken up the appeal of Amanda Knox’s murder conviction in the 2007 murder of Knox’s British roommate in Italy. A decision was expected as early as Wednesday, but with a full caseload, the judge has said a ruling may not be handed down until Friday.
The story has grabbed headlines for years, and while many of us are now all-too-familiar with the grisly details surrounding the case, most are not aware of the role trade secrets have played in the proceedings. READ MORE
SHREDDING TRADE SECRETS: Heli-Ski Operators Fret over FOIA Disclosures Releasing a Blizzard of Confidential Information
Heli-skiing: it’s the holy grail for thrill-seeking skiers and snowboarders. Ride to the roof of the world aboard a helicopter. Descend thousands of vertical feet through fresh, untracked powder. No lift lines, no ski patrol.
This is what heli-skiers pay upwards of $1,000 per day to see. What they don’t see is the heli-ski tour company owner, back at the office fretting over his trade secrets.
These fly-by-day firms have many of the same trade secrets concerns as the technology companies, restaurateurs, fragrance makers, executive recruiting firms and countless other businesses we regularly write about. 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
DONATE, DON’T TELL? The Red Cross says it has trade secrets, upsetting activists
Can a non-profit charity have trade secrets? The Red Cross thinks so. Its claim to trade secret protection over information related to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts made headlines and left some journalists and activists feeling, well, cross. But is the Red Cross’s trade secrets claim really so unusual? And what can other non-profits learn from it?
The Red Cross’s trade secrets claim grew out of a letter from the New York State Attorney General’s office seeking information on how the Red Cross spent Hurricane Sandy relief donations READ MORE
The Role of Alleged Trade Secret Forensic Evidence in the Amanda Knox Murder Case
Last week, Sen. Maria Cantwell and Rep. Adam Smith, both Washington Democrats, convened a Congressional briefing to discuss the ongoing murder case against Amanda Knox, the 26-year-old University of Washington foreign exchange student who was convicted in Italy of brutally murdering her 21-year-old British roommate, Meredith Kercher. The highly publicized and polarizing story of Kercher’s gruesome murder is stomach-churning and heartbreaking, especially for trade secret lawyers who are more accustomed to discussing source code and customer lists. Yet there is a trade secret component to this case. Boise State University, the employer of one of Knox’s consulting technical experts, is holding back relevant DNA analysis research on the grounds that it is a trade secret. READ MORE