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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Ind. Decisions - Tax Court issues one today

In Orbitz, LLC v. Indiana Department of State Revenue, a 9-page opinion, Judge Wentworth writes:

This matter comes before the Court on Orbitz, LLC’s request to have certain documents within the judicial record placed under seal so they cannot be accessed by the general public. Being duly advised in the matter, the Court grants Orbitz’s request. * * *

Accordingly, both APRA and Administrative Rule 9 set forth certain exceptions to the general rule of public access, trade secrets being one of them. See IND. CODE § 5-14-3-4(a)(4) (2013 (version c, eff. 7-1-2013)); Admin. R. 9(G)(1)(b); Bobrow v. Bobrow, 810 N.E.2d 726, 732-33 (Ind. Ct. App. 2004) (explaining that such exceptions are mandatory). * * *

There are certain procedures a court must follow before granting a request to shield information from public access under either Indiana Code § 5-14-3-5.5 or Administrative Rule 9. Most notable among these are the court’s duty 1) to conduct a public hearing on the request and 2) to subsequently issue an order that specifically outlines why the need for privacy outweighs the strong public policy that would otherwise allow access to such records. See IND. CODE § 5-14-3-5.5(c),(d) (2013); Admin. R. 9(H)(1)-(3) (footnote added). When, however, the documents sought to be protected fall within the mandatory exceptions set forth in APRA or Administrative Rule 9, a court can seal those records without holding such a hearing and balancing the competing interests. See Bobrow, 810 N.E.2d at 734; Admin. R. 9(G)(1), (H), (I). Consequently, the Court’s primary task is to determine whether Orbitz’s contracts are, or contain, “trade secrets.” * * *

Based on this statutory definition [IND. CODE § 24-2-3-2 (2013)], Indiana courts have long held that a trade secret has four general characteristics: 1) it is information; 2) that derives independent economic value; 3) that is not generally known, or readily ascertainable by proper means by others who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use; and 4) that is the subject of efforts, reasonable under the circumstances, to maintain its secrecy. * * *

Because the Court has determined that Orbitz’s contracts have the four characteristics of trade secrets, they fall within the mandatory exceptions to the general rule of public access set forth in APRA and Administrative Rule 9. Accordingly, the Court need not determine whether Orbitz’s need for privacy outweighs the policy of providing public access.

CONCLUSION

Competition is the bedrock of our country’s economic system. See WEBSTER’S THIRD NEW INT’L DICTIONARY 332 (2002 ed.) (defining capitalism). The protection afforded to trade secrets under APRA and Administrative Rule 9 helps to foster a healthy, competitive marketplace. See Bridgestone Americas Holding, Inc. v. Mayberry, 878 N.E.2d 189, 192 (Ind. 2007) (stating that “[u]nlike other assets, the value of a trade secret hinges on its secrecy. As more people or organizations learn the secret, [its] value quickly diminishes”). Here, Orbitz’s contracts contain trade secrets and therefore are protected from public disclosure under both APRA and Administrative Rule 9.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 16, 2013 04:28 PM
Posted to Ind. Tax Ct. Decisions