Price Detail in a Government Contract can be a Trade Secret

The Freedom of Information Act ordinarily requires public disclosure of government records.  However, there are several exemptions from these requirements.  Exemption 4 of the Freedom of Information Act protects “matters that are . . . trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential.”

The D.C. Circuit recently confirmed that line-item pricing information in a government contract is a trade secret that is exempt from public disclosure.  In Canadian Commerical Corp. v. Dept. of the Air Force (No. 06-5310, Jan. 29, 2007), the court explained that while certain information – such as the final bid price — may be made public, the line item detail is a trade secret. 

The court rejected the Air Force’s arguments that disclosure of line item information was permitted by FOIA, consistent with the Air Force’s past practice, and supported by earlier court precedent.  Instead, the court looked at decisions that it issued in 1999 and 2004 as as support for a holding line-item price information as a trade secret.

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