SW Legal studies in Business

Pricing Trade Secrets Not Forced Out by FOIA Request

Appeals court upheld the position of a company that bid on a government contract that the detailed information in the bid was a trade secret that could not be exposed to a competitor that filed a Freedom of Information Act request.

Topic Intellectual Property
Key Words

Freedom of Information Act; Exemption; Contract Pricing

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

Canadian Commercial signed a three-year contract with the Air Force for Canadian to repair jet engines. A competitor that also bid for the job filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for a copy of the contract. Canadian objected, contending the line-item prices as well as hourly rates listed on the contract were trade secrets. The Air Force rejected Canadian’s request to keep the information secret, so Canadian filed suit to enjoin disclosure of the information. The district court held that the line-item prices were trade secrets and that the decision by the Air Force was arbitrary and capricious. The Air Force appealed.


Affirmed. Such line-item pricing information in government contracts falls with FOIA exemption for privileged or confidential trade secrets and commercial or financial information because its disclosure would impair the government’s ability to obtain necessary information in the future or would cause substantial harm to the competitive position of the firm from which the information was obtained. FOIA is not intended to be used to expose trade secrets. Since the Air Force offered no explanation why the pricing details should be exposed, its position is not supported.

Citation Canadian Commercial Corp. v. Dept. of Air Force, 514 F.3d 37 (D.C. Cir., 2008)

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