Articles Posted in Trade Secrets

  • The touchstone of a trade secret is that it provides the owner of the information with a competitive advantage in their market.

  • Courts look at the cost of development, the difficulty in duplicating  and measurable benefits to ascertain whether a bona fide trade secret exists.

  • The first step in the defense of a trade secret is to examine whether there is real economic value to keeping the information secret.


Trade secret laws, much like other types of intellectual property law, always have the potential to limit competition and restrict employee mobility.  The result is that trade secret law can be used as a means to try to carve out a market space.  Those cases, however, may involve benign information that is difficult to classify as a trade secret.

Trade Secret Lawyer New Jersey | New York

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The first issue in the defense of any claim for misappropriation of a trade secret is to figure out if there is really a trade secret at issue, whether the claim is brought under the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA), a state Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA) (from which the DTSA was derived) or state common law.

The UTSA has now been enacted every state except New York and Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Continue reading

  • 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.

confidential-g959a1ca1f_1920-1024x724If 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.

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  • A former employee will violate the computer fraud and abuse act only by having unauthorized access to data, not by using data for an unauthorized purpose.

  • Former owners or employees that access computer systems after termination may be liable under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

  • A federal claim based on the unauthorized use of data will likely no longer support a federal claim in a business divorce litigation.


So much impact from such a little word.  The U.S. Supreme Court, resolving a split among the circuit courts, imposed significant limits on the reach of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), severely restricting its usefulness as a tool to pursue unfaithful former employees and owners.cyberspace-2784907_1920-1024x683

The significance of the decision– which as discussed below turned on the construction of the work “so” in the statute’s definitions – in business divorce cases is that it will limit the ability of litigants to employ the statute as redress for some types of conduct and deprive a plaintiff in some cases of access to federal courts.  (For the linquists and grammarians, the parsing of “so” is in the opinion, here.) Continue reading

  • An executive with national responsibilities may be subjected to a broad geographic restriction in an employment restrictive covenant.

  • Courts can and will enjoin a former executive from working for a competitor to prevent irreparable harm to the executive’s former employer when the restriction is reasonable.

  • Misappropriation and use of a company’s trade secrets by a former employee may also prevent an employee who has copied information from working for a competitor


A federal district court judge in New Jersey imposed a preliminary injunction that will prohibit a former executive from working for a competitor for at least a year.  The decision was based on both the existence of a restrictive covenant and the departing executive’s having copied data from his prior employer at the time of his departure.sunbelt

Resignation by Executive to Work for Competitor

The case,  Sunbelt Rentals, Inc. v. Love (opinion here) is particularly notable as a lesson in how not to resign a high-level position.  Because even if the trial judge had not enforced the restrictive covenant in the executive’s employment contract, the fact that he copied proprietary information by emailing customer lists and other data to his brother before his resignation doomed any defense to the preliminary injunction. Continue reading

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