|Trade Secret Need Not Be Revealed at Trial Unless Clearly Necessary|
Indiana high court applied a balancing test to a request for a defendant’s trade secret by a plaintiff. Since the plaintiff failed to clearly establish that information in the secret was necessary to make their argument, access would be denied.
Evidence; Trade Secret; Disclosure; Discovery
|C A S E S U M M A R Y|
Wigley lost control of her car when driving on a highway and was killed. Her heirs sued Bridgestone, alleging that a tire’s tread separation caused the accident. Plaintiffs sought the formula for the steel belt skim stock on the tire in question, a steel-belted radial tire. Bridgestone objected that the formula was a trade secret and moved for a protective order covering all trade secrets used to produce the tire. The trial court ordered the firm to produce the formula with certain limits on distribution by the plaintiff. Bridgestone appealed.
Reversed and remanded. A three-part balancing test is the proper analysis for whether good cause has been shown and a protective order should be issued for a trade secret during discovery: 1) the party opposing discovery must show that the information sought is a trade secret or other confidential research, development, or commercial information and that disclosure would be harmful; 2) then the burden shifts to the party seeking discovery to show that the information is relevant and necessary to bring the matter to trial; and 3) if both parties satisfy their burden, the court must weigh the potential harm of disclosure against the need for the information in reaching a decision. Here, the formula was clearly a trade secret. The disclosure of the secret was not necessary to the case. The only evidence of necessity was a letter from a former engineer submitted for a different case involving the failure of a different tire. That is insufficient for plaintiff to have access to the formula.
Bridgestone Americas Holding, Inc. v. Mayberry, 878 N.E.2d 189 (Sup. Ct., Ind., 2007)
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