With the explosion of digital content and the increasing speed with which information moves about in our digital economy, claims of unfair competition are on the rise. When an employee can download multiple gigabytes worth of data and information onto a one-inch thumb drive and deliver it to a new employer, it should come as a surprise to no one that the law of unfair competition has been expanding. Historically, New Jersey has not had a clearly recognized claim for unfair competition. However, over the years, the Courts have set forth the general principle that businesses who engage in what is recognized as unacceptable conduct in an attempt to compete with business could be susceptible to an unfair competition claim. The concept is deemed “as flexible and elastic as the evolving standards of commercial morality demand.” The judicial goal being to “discourage, or prohibit the use of misleading or deceptive practices which renders competition unfair.”
In addition, New Jersey now has certain laws which, while not specifically designated as unfair competition statutes, allow a business to defend itself against employees who seek to move trade secrets or confidential information to a competitor. Specifically, New Jersey has enacted a Trade Secrets Act N.J.S.A.56:15-1, which prohibits individuals from accessing, misappropriating and deleting trade secret information. Similarly, New Jersey also has a Computer Offenses Act, N.J.S.A.2A:38-1, which prohibits the knowing and unauthorized altering, damaging, taking or destruction of any data…existing internally or externally to a computer, computer system or computer network. N.J.S.A 2A:38-3a. Each of these Statutes offer a potential strong remedy against employees who would seek to take the confidential information or trade secrets of a business.
The attorneys at Byrnes, O’Hern & Heugle have experience litigating unfair competition claims as well as enforcing non-compete and non-solicitation Agreements. If you or your business has been threatened by conduct that you believe is unfair or risk the transfer of your liable trade secret or confidential information, then we are prepared to take the necessary legal steps to protect your business and investment that you have made in it.