Wednesday, December 07, 2011, 12/07/2011 08:25:00 AM

High Court Argument in Case Involving UConn Trade Secrets of Sporting and Cultural Supporters Has Twist at Oral Argument

By Todd

The Hartford Courant is reporting that there was an interesting twist the other day in the oral arguments at the Supreme Court of Connecticut in the case considering whether the University of Connecticut can rightfully withhold/shield records regarding its major ticket buyers for sporting and cultural events. Although we haven't read the brief, apparently the appellant (Connecticut's Freedom of Information Commission, represented by its attorney Clifton Leonhardt) argued that it is conceivable that the University of Connecticut COULD hold trade secrets, even though the Commission's brief contended the public institution could not.

The Courant reports: "Leonhardt caught both the justices and Pelto by surprise Monday when he stepped back from that position. He conceded that the school may have the right to maintain trade secrets, but that Pelto is entitled to the materials he requested for other reasons.
Minutes into Leonhardt's presentation to the court, Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers interrupted Leonhardt to point out that his argument sounded as if it were at odds with the commission's written brief. Later, Leonhardt said in an interview that he does not believe the commission, in its final decision, definitively settled the question of whether UConn can maintain trade secrets. If the commission had found definitively against UConn, he said, such a finding would contradict state law authorizing UConn to create and own intellectual property and to enter into research contracts with private businesses."

This admission in oral argument makes eminent sense to us. There is a significant amount of development of confidential and competitively sensitive IP going on at schools like UConn and the institutions have a right to seek and assert legal protections for that information. There was no need for the Commission to argue that a university has no ability to create and hold trade secrets - the case and argument needn't go that far. This appears to be the judgment call that Attorney Leonhardt made at oral argument and we'd predict it that concession and admission made for smoother sailing in that argument.


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