The University of Connecticut wants to keep its donor lists private.
An appeals court is considering whether UConn's lists of library supporters, theater guests and sports season ticket holders should be public information.
Experts say it's the first time that state courts are deciding whether a public entity can claim some of its records are trade secrets, even if they were created at public expense.
UConn officials said professional sports teams, theater organizations and other competitors might use the lists to chase those supporters for money.
Depending on the appeals court's ruling, the case could also make public thousands of names of UConn boosters: season ticket holders to athletics and cultural events, nonstudents who've inquired about continuing studies programs and donors to the library system.
In 2009, the state's Freedom of Information Commission ordered UConn to release the records. But last year, a state Supreme Court judge overturned that decision. It's now pending before the state's appellate court.
"If public entities can have trade secrets, then don't the trade secrets belong to the public?" asked UConn alumnus and former state representative Jonathan Pelto, who first requested the information. Connecticut has one of the best Freedom of Information acts in the country, but there are gray areas and this, as far as UConn is concerned, is a gray area."
The university declined to comment on pending litigation.