While federal law offers inventors and artists patent, trademark and copyright protection, New Jersey also has a separate state law which protects an individual’s or business’s trade secrets.
Not every idea, technique or formula which a company develops is subject to patent or copyright protection.
However, the New Jersey Trade Secrets Act still allows firms to protect their competitive edge in a market when that edge is the result of their efforts to come up with a new or creative idea.
A business will have to establish that their concept qualifies as a trade secret
New Jersey law prohibits the misappropriation of a trade secret. While misappropriation can include a number of covert or sneaky behaviors, the law does not prohibit another business from using public information or even trying to develop the product themselves.
A trade secret can include a number of items, including formulas, techniques, procedures and the like. The key is that the trade secret has to have some real economic value; that is, it must give the owner’s products or services a competitive edge in the market.
In order to claim a trade secret, a business must also use reasonable means to keep the secret safe from competitors.
For example, the fact a person puts chicken in chicken soup is not a trade secret, but where the chicken comes from or how it is raised or processed may well be.
If businesses misappropriate competitors’ trade secrets, they may be liable
New Jersey’s law allows a business who loses a trade secret to a competitor to litigate. The business may be able to get a court order preventing the competitor to use the secret, or they may also receive actual and punitive damages. An award of costs and fees, including expert witness fees and attorney fees, is also possible.