Click for home page Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
John Cornyn
image
 

July 23, 1999

Ms. Judy Ponder
General Counsel
General Services Commission
P.O. Box 13047
Austin, Texas 78711-3047

OR99-2077

Dear Ms. Ponder:

You have asked whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 125924.

The General Services Commission (the "GSC") received a request for information submitted to GSC by Carolyn Arnold-Communications Consultant, Inc. ("CACC"). You ask that we determine whether the information at issue is confidential under sections 552.101 and 552.110 of the Government Code. The GSC does not take a position concerning whether the information is confidential.

This office provided CACC the opportunity to submit reasons as to why the information at issue should be withheld from disclosure. In correspondence to this office, CACC contends that portions of its submitted documents constitute trade secrets that are protected from disclosure under section 552.110 of the Government Code. Section 552.110 protects the property interests of third parties by excepting from disclosure two types of information: (1) trade secrets, and (2) commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential by statute or judicial decision. The Texas Supreme Court has adopted the definition of trade secret from section 757 of the Restatement of Torts. Hyde Corp. v. Huffines, 314 S.W.2d 763 (Tex.), cert. denied, 358 U.S. 898 (1958); see also Open Records Decision No. 552 at 2 (1990). Section 757 provides that a trade secret is

    any formula, pattern, device or compilation of information which is used in one's business, and which gives him an opportunity to obtain an advantage over competitors who do not know or use it. It may be a formula for a chemical compound, a process of manufacturing, treating or preserving materials, a pattern for a machine or other device, or a list of customers. It differs from other secret information in a business . . . in that it is not simply information as to single or ephemeral events in the conduct of the business . . . . A trade secret is a process or device for continuous use in the operation of the business. . . . [It may] relate to the sale of goods or to other operations in the business, such as a code for determining discounts, rebates or other concessions in a price list or catalogue, or a list of specialized customers, or a method of bookkeeping or other office management.

Restatement of Torts 757 cmt. b (1939).

In determining whether particular information constitutes a trade secret, this office considers the Restatement's definition of trade secret as well as the Restatement's list of six trade secret factors. The six factors that the Restatement gives as indicia of whether information constitutes a trade secret are:

    (1) the extent to which the information is known outside of [the company];

    (2) the extent to which it is known by employees and others involved in [the company's] business;

    (3) the extent of measures taken by [the company] to guard the secrecy of the information;

    (4) the value of the information to [the company] and [its] competitors;

    (5) the amount of effort or money expended by [the company] in developing the information;

    (6) the ease or difficulty with which the information could be properly acquired or duplicated by others.

Restatement of Torts 757 cmt. b (1939); see also Open Records Decision Nos. 319 (1982), 306 (1982), 255 (1980).

This office has held that if a governmental body takes no position with regard to the application of the trade secret branch of section 552.110 to requested information, we must accept a private person's claim for exception as valid under that branch if that person establishes a prima facie case for exception and no argument is submitted that rebuts the claim as a matter of law. Open Records Decision No. 552 at 5-6 (1990). We have reviewed the documents and CACC's arguments. We believe that CACC has shown that the identities of their customers in the submitted documents are confidential trade secrets. This information must be withheld but the remaining information must be released.

We are resolving this matter with an informal letter ruling rather than with a published open records decision. This ruling is limited to the particular records at issue under the facts presented to us in this request and should not be relied upon as a previous determination regarding any other records. If you have questions about this ruling, please contact our office.

Sincerely,

Ruth H. Soucy
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

RHS/ch

Ref: ID# 125924

Encl. Submitted documents

cc: Mr. Harry Lewis
UtiliSave, L.L.C.
69-39 Austin Street
Forest Hills, New York 11375
(w/o enclosures)

Ms. Carolyn Arnold
Communications Consultant, Inc.
32884 IH-10 West
Boerne, Texas 78006
(w/o enclosures)


 

POST OFFICE BOX 12548, AUSTIN, TEXAS 78711-2548 TEL: (512) 463-2100 WEB: WWW.OAG.STATE.TX.US
An Equal Employment Opportunity Employer


Home | ORLs