To enforce a claim for misappropriation of a trade secret, the plaintiff must prove that the information was secret and valuable. Plaintiffs in New Jersey can rely on either the common law or the New Jersey Trade Secrets Act.
Secrets that have been publicly disclosed lose their their protection as trade secrets. Thus, the failure to secure a non-disclosure agreement with vendors or potential vendors could make it impossible to protect sensitive information in the future.
Once a trade secret has been publicly disclosed, even restrictive covenants and non-disclosure agreements executed by employees may lose their effectiveness as a means of protecting sensitive information.
One of the first obstacles that a company will encounter when trying to enforce its rights to protect confidential or proprietary information is whether the information is a trade secret. This is a threshold issue that is determined by the conduct of the party claiming the secret, sometimes as much by the sensitivity of the information.
If the information is in the public domain, or if the owner the information has not taken steps to protect the information from disclosure, under New Jersey law there is no trade secret to protect. That was the result in this case from New Jersey’s Superior Court.
Court Dismisses Trade Secret Misappropriation Claim
In a lawsuit brought against a New Jersey beauty supplier, a trial judge of the Superior Court dismissed claims asserting that a competitor had misappropriated its trade secrets and that its former employees were in breach of the confidentiality and non-solicitation provisions of restrictive covenants that they had executed.
The case, Ebin New York, Inc. v. Beauty Plus Trading Co., Inc., involved the formula for an adhesive hair spray that the plaintiff claimed was a trade secret. The plaintiff sued its manufacturer and Beauty Plus, along with individual defendants that the plaintiff alleged were bound by the agreements they had made as employees.