About a year ago there was much discussion on IPR Talk about the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Several contributors feared that public funding bodies and even the Patent Office might make patent applications and related documents available to persons seeking information under the Act. When Assistant Information Commissioner Gerrard Tracey and Ibrahim Hasan gave their presentations to the IP Centre of Excellence for the North on "Lessons learned from the First Year of the FOI" and "Freedom of Information 15 Months on" in Manchester on 30 March 2006 I put that question to the speakers. Both believed that such information fell within the commercial interests exception under s.43 (1) and that other exemptions might apply such as future publication under s.22.
This is not the only aspect of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 that concerns IP lawyers. There is a broad interface with data protection and confidentiality which affects computer contracts and electronic commerce. This is an area that anyone drafting software licences, terms and conditions of trade and other agreements must keep constantly under review. Despite the Court of Appeal's decision in Durant v Financial Services Authority  EWCA Civ 1746 (8 Dec 2003) it is by no means safe to suppose that the combined effects of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Data Protection Act 1998 can have no impact on disclosure in civil litigation.