A Handbook of Contemporary Research
Edited by Rochelle C. Dreyfuss and Katherine J. Strandburg
Chapter 1: Trade Secrecy in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory
Jeanne C. Fromer* Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is well-known as a dark fantasy in which five children win a visit to a whimsical candy company.1 Less conspicuous is the legal issue of trade secrecy driving the novel’s plot. Secrecy is not indigenous to fictional representations of the candy industry, but is widespread throughout its real-world confectionary counterparts of today and yesteryear. An investigation of the need for secrecy in this commercial sphere raises fundamental questions about the role of legal protection for misappropriations of secrets when actual secrecy seems to be paramount and about the relationship between trade secrecy and patent law. Dahl’s story depicts Willy Wonka as an extraordinary innovator of candies. Early in the story, the novel’s title character, Charlie Bucket, receives a mere taste of some of Wonka’s many creations from the descriptions of Grandpa Joe, Charlie’s grandfather, of ‘a way of making chocolate ice cream so that it stays cold for hours and hours without being in the icebox’,2 ‘marshmallows that taste of violets, . . . rich caramels that change colour every ten seconds as you suck them, . . . chewing gum that never loses its taste, and candy balloons that you can blow up to enormous sizes before you pop them with a pin and gobble them up’.3 In his depictions, Grandpa Joe is careful to stress that many of Wonka’s methods for producing his candies are ‘most secret’4 to protect his ideas from appropriation by others. In fact, Wonka’s methods and his perpetual stream...
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