What’s a “trade secret” for discovery objections and what are the steps for trial court review?
In Bright House Networks, LLC v. Albert C. Cassidy et al. (Florida Second District, Jan. 10, 2014), we learn that at least one cable TV provider apparently provides free service to “a significant number of recipients.” Moreover, the list of those customers was claimed to be a trade secret.
How does a party raise a trade secret objection? And what steps are required to overcome it?
In Bright House, the Second DCA held that referencing “trade secrets, confidential, and/or proprietary business information” was sufficient language to preserve the issue.
Consistent with Florida Statutes 90.506 (privilege against disclosure of trade secrets), a trial court should take the following steps:
1. Determine if the requested information is a “trade secret” per Florida Statute 688.002(4). This is usually done via an in camera inspection. A customer list can be a trade secret. Here, the Second DCA admitted that an in camera inspection of a list of names/addresses might not be helpful. That said, a hearing (and evidence) might be needed to determine whether the compilation of information is confidential and that the company acquired it through the pursuit of its business strategy and course of confidential negotiations.
2. Determine if the requesting party has shown reasonable necessity. This includes limiting production to items necessary for a court to determine contested issues.
3. Order safeguards, as needed.