Savvy business owners understand the value of protecting proprietary information, especially when the information provides a competitive advantage in the marketplace (commonly referred to as a trade secret). What happens, however, when your business is unexpectedly defending claims in a public court system or protecting itself by filing a lawsuit in open court? Will your business’ trade secrets be publicly exposed? Will a competitor have access to the court’s public records (now online statewide) and the ability to review proprietary practices, pricing, or customer lists revealed through litigation? Fortunately, Iowa’s courts are empowered to protect your business’ trade secrets.
A recent Iowa Supreme Court opinion, filed June 26, 2015, identifies several protections that Iowa’s courts may employ to preserve trade secrets, including:
- Closing court proceedings to the public;
- Sequestering witnesses during testimony of other witnesses;
- Excluding parties from the courtroom when trade secrets are presented;
- Restricting attendance at trial;
- Sealing transcripts of court proceedings.
Iowa’s high court also recognized “[i]t would be of little practical value to file a lawsuit to protect the confidentiality of a trade secret if the secret became part of the publicly available court record and was thereby lost.” In short, while our court system is open and public by design, sophisticated parties can and do protect their trade secrets in the court of law.
Click here to learn more about whether your information may qualify as a trade secret in Iowa.