statements in Court. Thus, plaintiff claims that CKSCO should not be permitted to render the information "confidential" within the meaning of exemption 4 by revealing its competitive value. The Court is not persuaded by either contention.
Mr. Frank Mills explained that although the oil market had changed in the last several years, the 1980 market was similar to that of 1973 and 1974, the years in which the requested information was prepared. Moreover, CKSCO had been able to maintain a steady source of supply and a constant number of suppliers. Thus, Mr. Mills explained, the six-year old data would have a great relevance to a competitor today. By adjusting the old figures for cost-of-living and, interest increases, a competitor could produce data very similar to CKSCO's 1980 figures. In light of the relative ease with which competitors could update CKSCO's 1973 and 1974 information, the Court is persuaded that this data retains its importance in the 1980 market.
Additionally, the Court finds that CKSCO cannot be faulted for providing an explanation of the relevance of the 1973 data. A business which seeks to protect proprietary information, or data which may lead to such information, is often in a difficult position. By explaining how competitors may use the still unrevealed information, a business runs the risk that it will provide its competitors with insights which they would not otherwise possess. Thus, if the information were released, competitors, who would have had no ability to use the data, would be able to take advantage of the information, through explanations offered in court. Alternatively, if the business declines to provide any explanation, a trial court will be unable to assess the value of the data; thus, the data could be released and the business will run the risk of its competitors understanding how to use it. In light of the difficult position in which businesses are placed when their commercial data becomes the subject of legal inquiry, the Court is loathe to impose upon them the harsh standard proposed by plaintiff. If a business is able to explain how a competitor might make use of the data, the Court should not inquire into the obscure issue of a competitor's ability to independently develop the significance which has been explained in Court. Plaintiff's position is especially harsh in this case. One of the key issues in any exemption 4 case is the current significance of the commercial data. By stating that its business has changed little since 1973, CKSCO has merely explained that the withheld data is neither stale nor outdated. Such testimony is vital to the resolution of the issues in this case. Accordingly, the Court declines to adopt plaintiff's suggestion that CKSCO's explanation be overlooked.
III. PLAINTIFF IS NOT ENTITLED TO ATTORNEY'S FEES.
Under 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(E), the Court may award attorney's fees to a FOIA complainant who has "substantially prevailed." The Court does not believe that BELD has satisfied this standard. Although the Court has compelled the production of customer's names, this data is an extremely small portion of the withheld information. Only a handful of the twenty-three disputed documents contain such data and, with respect to these documents, the names are only one portion of the withheld record. In light of the minimal significance of the compelled disclosure, the Court finds that plaintiff has not substantially prevailed in this action.
In light of the foregoing, the Court makes the following conclusions of law.
First, the information on suppliers, purchases, costs of goods sold, inventory balances, thruput costs, selling prices, freight costs, and margin, contained in documents 1 through 23 is confidential commercial information within the meaning of 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(4).
Second, the customer names contained in documents 5a-5g and 6-6a is not protected by 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(4) and must be disclosed pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(3).
Third, plaintiff is not entitled to attorney's fees under 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4) (E).
An order in accordance with the foregoing shall be issued of even date herewith.
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