The Alkaline Paper Advocate

Volume 10, Number 1
Apr 1996

Nocopi Security Papers Play Role in Tobacco Industry's 1995 Lawsuit

In May of 1995, the Wall Street Journal ran a couple of stories about the Philip Morris Company's effort to dodge their legal obligation to turn over 25 boxes of confidential documents to Capital Cities/ABC Inc. At stake was Philip Morris's $10 million lawsuit against the TV broadcast company for saying that the company spiked their cigarettes with nicotine. The law was clear: it said they had to turn over the documents, or copies of them, but it didn't say how legible they had to be. So, after four months and three court orders, Philip Morris sent copies of the documents to ABC. They had been made on Nocopi paper, which is barely legible and cannot be copied, because the paper is dark red, and the black text is hard to make out against that background. Some of them have a pattern on them in addition.

ABC lawyers were really surprised when they opened the boxes, but what they objected to most was a peculiar odor so strong that two lawyers were reportedly overcome with nausea. They asked the judge to punish Philip Morris for making the documents so difficult to work with. Instead, he ruled that it was not against the law to provide documents copied onto security paper like this; he found them "not unduly difficult" to read, and could not detect any unpleasant odor coming from them.

Nocopi papers are distributed by Vista Security Papers in San Mateo, California (415/574-8045, fax 415/571-6445). They are usually used for copying confidential documents like credit reports, personal financial information, military information and examination papers. The company advises customers to make a copy for use and destroy the original or store it in another place.

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