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Top secret dough? Muffin baker battles for recipe rights

The great muffin war is warming up. It's Thomas's English muffins vs. newcomer Entenmann's - and the battlefield is a New Jersey courtroom.

S.B. Thomas Inc. of Englewood Cliffs, N.J., has requested ''an injunction preventing Entenmann's from using Thomas's trade secrets,'' says William Parker, a S.B. Thomas spokesman.

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A company statement claims that ''Entenmann's has hired three former employees of Thomas and we have reason to believe they have disclosed secret information relating to the manufacture of Thomas's English Muffins.''

Walter Weglein of Entenmann's said, ''We believe the case has no merit.'' He also said that, for now, Entenmann's muffins are being ''test-marketed'' only in the Northeast.

Mr. Weglein, for his part, likes the taste of both muffins. ''I think Thomas's has an excellent muffin but the Entenmann's is good, too.''

A Thomas's source said, ''We don't mind competition, but it's tough to compete against your own technology.'' The secret recipe - which the company says dates back to 1880 - turns out a muffin that has made Thomas the nation's leading muffin maker.

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