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Orbitz contracts with hotels are ‘trade secrets,’ Tax Court rules

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The Indiana Tax Court Wednesday granted online travel company Orbitz LLC’s request to place certain documents under seal – including contracts the company has with three Indiana hotels. Judge Martha Wentworth determined that the contracts are trade secrets, so they are not subject to public disclosure.

The ruling came in Orbitz, LLC v. Indiana Department of State Revenue, 49T10-0903-TA-10, in which Orbitz challenged the results of an audit the Department of State Revenue completed in 2007. The revenue department determined Orbitz was deficient in remitting Indiana’s gross retail (sales) and county innkeeper taxes on bookings that occurred between Jan. 1, 2004, and Dec. 31, 2006, through its website.

Orbitz protested the proposed assessments issued by the department and initiated this tax appeal in 2009. In August 2013, the company sought to prohibit public access to copies of contracts with the hotels. The contracts specifically detail what Orbitz has negotiated with the hotels regarding room rates.

Wentworth determined the contracts have the four characteristics of trade secrets: they are information; that derive independent economic value; that are not generally known, or readily ascertainable by proper means by others who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use; and that are the subject of efforts, reasonable
under the circumstances, to maintain their secrecy.

“Competition is the bedrock of our country’s economic system,” she wrote. “The protection afforded to trade secrets under Access to Public Records Act and Administrative Rule 9 helps to foster a healthy, competitive marketplace.”
 

 

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  5. I whole-heartedly agree with Doug Church's comment, above. Indiana lawyers were especially fortunate to benefit from Tom Pyrz' leadership and foresight at a time when there has been unprecedented change in the legal profession. Consider how dramatically computer technology and its role in the practice of law have changed over the last 25 years. The impact of the great recession of 2008 dramatically changed the composition and structure of law firms across the country. Economic pressures altered what had long been a routine, robust annual recruitment process for law students and recent law school graduates. That has, in turn, impacted law school enrollment across the country, placing upward pressure on law school tuition. The internet continues to drive significant changes in the provision of legal services in both public and private sectors. The ISBA has worked to make quality legal representation accessible and affordable for all who need it and to raise general public understanding of Indiana laws and procedures. How difficult it would have been to tackle each of these issues without Tom's leadership. Tom has set the tone for positive change at the ISBA to meet the evolving practice needs of lawyers of all backgrounds and ages. He has led the organization with vision, patience, flexibility, commitment, thoughtfulness & even humor. He will, indeed, be a tough act to follow. Thank you, Tom, for all you've done and all the energy you've invested in making the ISBA an excellent, progressive, highly responsive, all-inclusive, respectful & respected professional association during his tenure there.

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