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In re Bass – Case Brief Summary (Texas)

In In re Bass, 113 S.W.3d 735 (Tex. 2003), the supreme court held that the 3-D geological seismic data at issue in that case were trade secrets. Id. at 742.

The court first noted that "it is undisputed that the oil and gas industry typically treats seismic data and all other methods of obtaining subsurface geological data as trade secrets." Id. at 740-41 (collecting cases from other jurisdictions).

The court then analyzed each of the six Restatement factors in light of the circumstances. Id. at 741. The evidence established that:

(1) Bass at all times maintained the confidentiality of the data and never showed the data to anyone except its employees and agents;

(2) only four people--all of whom were Bass's agents or employees--had access to the data;

(3) the data were kept in a vault accessible only to those who knew the combination, and employees needed a security card just to enter the work area;

(4) the data were a "vital commodity" upon which all interpretation of the land's value was based and had a monetary value of between $ 800,000 and $ 2,200,000, both of which values highly favored trade secret protection;

(5) the seismic shoot took several months to complete at considerable expense and inconvenience, though there was no evidence of a specific monetary cost;

(6) duplicating the data would be difficult and expensive and would require Bass's permission to conduct another seismic shoot, and licensing the exiting data from Bass would also be expensive. Id. at 741-42.

The court held that all of the factors except the fifth, for which there was no specific evidence, weighed in favor of deeming the data trade secrets. Id. at 742.

Thus, the court held that the data and its interpretations were trade secrets. Id.