TRADE SECRET EXEMPTION DOES NOT REQUIRE PROOF DISCLOSURE WOULD RESULT IN COMPETITIVE INJURY.
The Third Department, in a full-fledged opinion by Justice Rose, determined the exemption from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) for trade secrets did not require a showing that disclosure of the trade secrets would result in substantial competitive injury. Rather, the statute, Public Officers Law 87 (2) (d), provides two distinct exemptions from disclosure: one for bona fide trade secrets and one for documents which, if disclosed, would cause substantial injury to the competitive position of the owner of the documents. Supreme Court’s finding that the exemption for trade secrets did not require proof of injury to competitive position was upheld. There are strict criteria in place for determining whether information constitutes a bona fide trade secret. Applying those criteria, Supreme Court properly determined that several documents provided by petitioner (Verizon) to the Department of Public Service were exempt from FOIL disclosure as bona fide trade secrets:
As pertinent here, Public Officers Law § 87 (2) (d) protects from FOIL disclosure “all records” that “are trade secrets or are submitted to an agency by a commercial enterprise or derived from information obtained from a commercial enterprise and which if disclosed would cause substantial injury to the competitive position of the subject enterprise.” Respondents argue that this language unambiguously indicates that the Legislature intended to create a single FOIL exemption for all types of confidential commercial information imparted to an agency — including trade secrets — and to subject all such information to the same showing of substantial competitive injury. * * *
Our courts have long recognized “[t]he importance of trade secret protection and the resultant public benefit” … , and have developed a fact-intensive inquiry to determine whether specific commercial information is a bona fide trade secret worthy of such protection. First, it must be established that the information in question is a “‘formula, pattern, device or compilation of information which is used in one’s business, and which gives [one] an opportunity to obtain an advantage over competitors who do not know or use it'” … . Second, if the information fits this general definition, then an additional factual determination must be made
“concerning whether the alleged trade secret is truly secret by considering: (1) the extent to which the information is known outside of the business; (2) the extent to which it is known by employees and others involved in the business; (3) the extent of measures taken by the business to guard the secrecy of the information; (4) the value of the information to the business and its competitors; (5) the amount of effort or money expended by the business in developing the information; [and] (6) the ease or difficulty with which the information could be properly acquired or duplicated by others” … .
Inasmuch as an entity seeking to establish the existence of a bona fide trade secret must make a sufficient showing with respect to each of these factors, we agree with Supreme Court that it is wholly unnecessary and overly burdensome to require the entity to then make a separate showing that FOIL disclosure of the trade secret would cause substantial injury to its competitive position. Matter of Verizon N.Y., Inc. v New York State Pub. Serv. Commn.2016 NY Slip Op 00239, 3rd Dept 1-14-16
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