ILNews

Court rules on discovery of trade secrets

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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A tire making formula is considered a trade secret and doesn't have to be disclosed in discovery, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled today.

The unanimous 11-page ruling comes in a much-anticipated first impression case of Bridgestone Americas Holding, Inc. v. Violet Mayberry, et al., No. 48A02-0504-CV-368, which stemmed from a fatal August 2001 accident in which a woman lost control of her vehicle on Interstate 69 after one of the tires came apart. Her family sued the tire maker; during discovery they asked for certain documents that included the skim stock formula to determine what contributed to the tire tread coming apart and, ultimately, Harmony B. Wigley's death.

Madison Superior Judge Thomas Newman ultimately issued a protective order compelling Bridgestone to disclose its skim stock formula, and the tire maker appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision in August 2006, and the Supreme Court took the case earlier this year.

In accepting the case, justices considered how closely trade secrets should be guarded when it comes to discovery and whether certain information should be disclosed at all.

"We encounter here a question of first impression: how should an Indiana court analyze a request to protect a trade secret from pre-trial discovery?" Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard wrote. "We conclude that the test prevailing in other jurisdictions is suitable for application under Indiana Trial Rule 26(C). In this case, the demanding party did not demonstrate the necessity of disclosing the secret."

The chief justice wrote that the application of Rule 26 to trade secrets should be informed by Indiana's adoption of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA), which has been adopted in all but five states and provides a common legal framework for protecting trade secrets from misappropriation.

In turning to the UTSA, the court focuses on a three-part balancing test as the proper analysis for determining whether "good cause" has been shown to protect a trade secret.

Justices agree that happened here, that Bridgestone showed the formula was a trade secret, and the family didn't show why it was necessary. But the court also issued a word of caution:

"Of course, trade secrets may be valuable during the course of litigation not involving misappropriation claims, and there are moments when justice requires disclosure," Chief Justice Shepard wrote. "Still, courts must proceed with care when supervising the discovery of trade secrets, lest the judiciary be used to achieve misappropriation or mere leverage."

Today's ruling reverses the trial court's protective order directing disclosure of Bridgestone's skim stock formula and remands the case for further proceedings on the merits.
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  1. Poor Judge Brown probably thought that by slavishly serving the godz of the age her violations of 18th century concepts like due process and the rule of law would be overlooked. Mayhaps she was merely a Judge ahead of her time?

  2. in a lawyer discipline case Judge Brown, now removed, was presiding over a hearing about a lawyer accused of the supposedly heinous ethical violation of saying the words "Illegal immigrant." (IN re Barker) http://www.in.gov/judiciary/files/order-discipline-2013-55S00-1008-DI-429.pdf .... I wonder if when we compare the egregious violations of due process by Judge Brown, to her chiding of another lawyer for politically incorrectness, if there are any conclusions to be drawn about what kind of person, what kind of judge, what kind of apparatchik, is busy implementing the agenda of political correctness and making off-limits legit advocacy about an adverse party in a suit whose illegal alien status is relevant? I am just asking the question, the reader can make own conclsuion. Oh wait-- did I use the wrong adjective-- let me rephrase that, um undocumented alien?

  3. of course the bigger questions of whether or not the people want to pay for ANY bussing is off limits, due to the Supreme Court protecting the people from DEMOCRACY. Several decades hence from desegregation and bussing plans and we STILL need to be taking all this taxpayer money to combat mostly-imagined "discrimination" in the most obviously failed social program of the postwar period.

  4. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  5. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

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