On Monday, January 9, 2012, Governor Chris Christie signed into the law the New Jersey Trade Secrets Act (NJTSA, http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2010/Bills/S2500/2456_R1.HTM), the Garden State’s version of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA). New Jersey, thus, becomes the forty-seventh state to adopt some form of UTSA. While the New Jersey Act will promote some level of uniformity in the approach to trade secrets issues, New Jersey specific changes to the uniform act promise that this statute will build upon, rather than depart from, New Jersey’s common law tradition of protection of trade secrets and other valuable business information.
Some New Jersey specific points in the legislation:
• The definition of “trade secret” under NJTSA is broader than under UTSA, as NJTSA incorporates the broader protections of New Jersey common law principles;
• NJTSA supplements, rather than displaces, New Jersey common law, as the statute states that the rights, remedies, and prohibitions under NJTSA “are in addition to and cumulative of any other rights, remedies, or prohibitions provided under common law or statutory law of this State”;
• NJTSA prohibits acquisitions of the trade secrets of another by “improper means,” and contains definitions of that term and “proper means” not found in UTSA;
• NJTSA makes mere or threatened acquisition by improper means of another’s trade secret actionable, and enjoinable, even if there is no concomitant likelihood of disclosure to or use by third party.
These NJTSA-specific provisions combine with UTSA’s allowing for recovery of attorneys’ fees and punitive damages to provide the holders of trade secrets a powerful new tool in New Jersey. Those who helped frame, over a multi-year time period, the bill as adopted in New Jersey included its sponsors, employer groups, and the New Jersey Law Revision Commission and its legal advisors, including the author of this post.