Plaintiffs in trade secret cases are often torn between two conflicting interests: the need to state their trade secrets with enough specificity to survive a motion to dismiss, and the necessity of keeping their trade secrets confidential. In order to resolve this dilemma, plaintiffs often seek to file their complaints under seal, so that the contents are withheld from the public but still available to the parties and the court.
In deciding whether to seal a court filing, the court must balance the need for privacy against the public’s “general right to inspect and copy public records and documents, including judicial records and documents.” Nixon v. Warner Comm., 435 U.S. 589, 597 (1978). In federal court, in order to succeed on a motion to seal, a plaintiff must state compelling reasons, supported by specific factual findings, that outweigh the public’s right of access to court filings and the public policies favoring disclosure of court documents. In re Hewlett-Packard Co., 2015 WL 8570883, *2 (N.D. Cal. 2015); see also Sherwin Williams Co. v. Courtesy Oldsmobile Cadillac, Inc., 2015 WL 8665601, *1 (E.D. Cal. 2015). State courts employ similar standards. For example, in California, in order to seal a document the moving party must demonstrate: (1) There is an overriding interest that overcomes the right to public access to the record; (2) the overriding interest supports sealing the record; (3) there is a substantial probability that the overriding interest will be prejudiced if the record is not sealed; (4) the proposed sealing is narrowly tailored; and (5) there is no less restrictive means to achieve the overriding interest. California Rule of Court 2.550(d).