Trade Secrets For The Dogs
An interesting case out of Mississippi concerning the scope of trade secrets. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has requested documents under the Mississippi Public Records Act from Iams (a pet food maker) relating to experiments conducted on animals. Iams says that the information is protected Intellectual Property and trade secret and not subject to the Public Records Act. PETA responded by saying they don’t want trade secret information, they just want to know what happened to the animals.
While I’m not sure that PETA’s request that they don’t want trade secrets and only want to know what happened to the animals contains a distinction (aren’t the results of the experiments (the alleged trade secrets) actually results about what happened to the animals?), I find myself in rare agreement with PETA. I don’t believe that a company should be able to hide behind IP laws to protect actions taken which might be otherwise objectionable. There is certainly a distinction between protecting customer lists and business processes as opposed to the results of experiments which might be harming animals. I think that if we begin to extend IP or trade secret protection to these types of situations, we may find ourselves on a very slippery slope indeed.
Apparently the court agreed as it found that protocols relating to the experiments was not protected by trade secret law. The case is up on appeal in the Mississippi Supreme Court–we will inform you when there is more news.