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Miss. court to decide if pet-food data is fit for public consumption

By The Associated Press
01.09.08

JACKSON, Miss. — Pet-food manufacturer the Iams Company contends Mississippi State University research documents it has been ordered to give People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are trade secrets and not public record.

Iams and the university have appealed Chancery Judge Dorothy Colom's adverse decision to the Mississippi Supreme Court.

The case is among dozens the Supreme Court will take up during the January-February term. The court will not hear oral arguments in the cases, however. The justices will instead rely on attorneys' briefs to make their decisions.

In January 2006, PETA filed suit alleging MSU violated the Mississippi Public Records Act when the animal-rights group was denied records of dental experiments and other tests on animals conducted since 1999 for Iams.

The Public Records Act requires that records be furnished to the public either free of charge or in return for reasonable fees.

Iams' attorney James P. Streetman III of Jackson has argued that the experiments are the company's intellectual property. He has said Iams has made a substantial investment at Mississippi State in order to develop and protect that property.

PETA said it didn't want trade secrets. PETA said it only wanted to know what happened to the animals at Mississippi State.

PETA claimed Mississippi State wanted an advance fee of $40,497 for the documents the group requested. When it reduced the number of pages asked for, PETA claims MSU told them that only 19 of the requested pages would be sent and the cost would be $1,000.

The university claimed the remaining pages contained proprietary information, according to court documents.

In her ruling in December 2006, Colom said the type and number of animals used in an experiment, whether surgery would be performed, and information related to animals' pain and discomfort did not qualify as trade secrets.

"Having carefully reviewed each and every protocol submitted by MSU and Iams, this court hereby finds that the protocols themselves are not a trade secret," Colom said.

Colom also ruled that the documents were not exempt from release under the Public Records Act.


Update
Pet-food research isn't public info, rules Miss. high court
Animal-rights group had claimed Mississippi State University violated open-records law by refusing to release records of experiments conducted for Iams Company. 08.01.08

Related

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Southern Ill. Univ. can't withhold staff contracts, judges rule
Siding with weekly newspaper, state appeals court rejects school's argument that employment contracts of president, other officials contain private info that should be shielded. 08.21.07

Ark. high court: Construction firm doesn't have to turn over files
Justices reject argument that state FOIA requires company to release documents on its contract with University of Arkansas at Fayetteville to build dorm. 11.04.07

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