Non-Compete Agreements

Restrictive covenants and non-compete agreements have been a frequent topic of this blog in recent months, and rightfully so. Non-competes are generally thought to be effective tools to help firms protect trade secrets and competitive advantages. However, these agreements are falling out of favor across the country – the DOJ recently file a Statement of Interest in a state court case taking the position that non-competes may violate the Sherman Antitrust Act. Further, states continue to pass laws limiting or banning the use of noncompete agreements, including Illinois, Oregon, Nevada, D.C., and Colorado

But one Texas court seems to buck this trend. Last month, Fort Bend County District Judge J. Christian Becerra granted a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) in a trade secret misappropriation case, forcing multiple former employees to stop work for a competing business, and limiting one particular employee from engaging in any competing work for any competitor. The catch? Not a single employee had a non-compete agreement.

Continue Reading No Non-Compete? No Problem. Texas Court Grants TRO Forcing Former Employees to Stop Working for Competing Business.

To continue our series on trade secret employee contract clauses, we’ve surveyed the First Circuit for updates to the law relating to restrictive covenants. Such covenants remain predominantly governed by statutes in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, while Puerto Rico continues to govern them by common law. And with no significant updates since 2020, restrictive covenants remain disfavored and under increased scrutiny in the First Circuit. Generally, these courts will only enforce noncompete agreements that are reasonable, no broader than necessary to protect an employer’s legitimate business interests, properly noticed, and in line with public policy. The applicable law for each state is set forth below.
Continue Reading Restrictive Covenants in the First Circuit

A recent decision by the Second Circuit reminds litigants that a party asserting a trade secret misappropriation claim under the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA), or New York law, must detail in a pleading “the “reasonable measures” employed to maintain the secrecy of the alleged trade secret. In Turret Labs USA, Inc. v. CargoSprint, LLC, No. 21-952, Dkt. No 106-1 (2nd Cir. Mar. 9, 2022), the Second Circuit affirmed the District Court’s grant of a motion to dismiss, concluding that plaintiff Turret Labs failed to adequately allege that reasonable measures were taken because, although there was an agreement giving the plaintiff’s customer exclusive access to the alleged trade secret, this agreement (as well as all surrounding security policy documents) failed to contractually obligate the customer to maintain confidentiality of the alleged secret.

Continue Reading Second Circuit Reminds Practitioners That A Plausible Claim for Trade Secret Misappropriation Must Detail the Reasonable Measures Used to Protect the Alleged Secret

Restrictive covenants not to compete, or non-compete agreements, are one of a variety of tools companies use to protect their trade secrets and competitive advantage. However, whether a court will enforce a restrictive covenant varies widely across jurisdictions, including across states within the Fifth Circuit. For example, the Louisiana statute governing restrictive covenants applies a two-year durational limit, while Mississippi common law applies a more general ‘reasonable and specific’ standard to the duration and geographic scope of a restrictive covenant. In addition, Mississippi courts must balance the rights of the employer, the employee, and the public when enforcing restrictive covenants. Bus. Commc’ns, Inc. v. Banks, 91 So. 3d 1, 11 (Miss. Ct. App. 2011), aff’d, 90 So. 3d 1221 (Miss. 2012). 

Continue Reading Restrictive Covenants in the Fifth Circuit

New Jersey joins a growing list of states seeking to limit employers’ use of non-compete and non-solicitation agreements, adding to the patchwork of legislation in this area.

The New Jersey State Legislature proposed a bill on May 2, 2022 that would regulate and severely limit an employer’s use of non-compete agreements. Specifically, under A3715, all no-poach agreements would be void and non-compete agreements never enforceable against certain types of workers, including interns, apprentices, independent contractors, minors, low-wage employees, or employees who will be employed for less than one year. Outside of this population, restrictive covenants would only be enforced if the employer first discloses the terms of the agreement in writing 30 days before a prospective employee’s offer or, for current employees, 30 days before the agreement would be effective. Post-employment restrictions could only last for 12-months and employees must provide 10 days’ notice of their intent to enforce a post-employment agreement.

Continue Reading Non-Compete Agreements a Non-Starter? New Jersey Proposes Sweeping Non-Compete Legislation

As a part of our series on trade secret employee contract clauses, we have surveyed the Seventh Circuit for updates on  the law pertaining to Restrictive Covenants. Each state’s laws are set forth below. But generally in the Seventh Circuit, states focus on reasonableness, geographic, and income restraints in restrictive covenant agreements. Indiana applies a reasonableness-standard common law approach to enforcing covenants, strictly construed against the employer. Wisconsin’s restrictive covenant statute also focuses on reasonableness restraints, and will void all parts of the covenant even if remaining portions are reasonable. Illinois recently passed a restrictive covenant statute in 2021, the Illinois Freedom to Work Act, which codifies the state’s longstanding common law, adding provisions restricting covenants against certain incomes and professions.
Continue Reading Restrictive Covenants in the Seventh Circuit

Within the Tenth Circuit, states vary in their enforcement of restrictive covenants. Wyoming, Kansas, and New Mexico govern the use of restrictive covenants through common law while Utah, Colorado, and Oklahoma govern through statute. Oklahoma is unique in that it prohibits restrictive covenants through statute. In the other five states, despite the variations in governing authority, many of the factors used are similar given the widely accepted “reasonableness” standard many jurisdictions have adopted as a metric for adjudicating the propriety of such agreements.
Continue Reading Restrictive Covenants in the Tenth Circuit

The US Department of Justice (“DOJ”) recently filed a Statement of Interest in connection with a pending case in Nevada State Court, Samuel Beck, et al. v. Pickert Medical Group, P.C. et al., further highlighting the DOJ’s heightened scrutiny of post-employment restrictive covenants under the antitrust laws and their effects on competition. In this noteworthy Statement of Interest, the DOJ takes the position that post-employment restrictive covenants may constitute both horizontal and vertical restraints of trade that violate the Sherman Antitrust Act. The Statement of Interest follows the DOJ and FTC’s  2017 Antitrust Guidance for Human Resources Professionals which addressed how antitrust law can apply to employee hiring and compensation and a December 2021 DOJ and FTC workshop that addressed how contractual restraints on trade can harm labor markets, as well as recent executive orders and statements by the Biden administration limiting and criticizing the use of noncompetition agreements with employees. The DOJ’s Statement of Interest thus represents yet another step up in pressure by the federal government signaling it will continue taking more action to discourage the use of contractual restraints on trade in employment-related agreements.
Continue Reading Enforceability of Non-Compete Agreements; Recent Input from the DOJ

It’s the time of year again when we are taking a look at 2021’s top ten most read posts. This year, we witnessed an increased risk of trade secret theft due to the Great Resignation, proposed trade secret misappropriation penalties as a result of Chinese government trade secret espionage, and the expansion of ITC involvement in trade secret misappropriation. Take a look at our top ten posts that highlight these key developments.

Continue Reading The Year’s Most Popular Posts

On November 23rd, Pfizer filed a complaint against former employee Chun Xiao “Sherry” Li in a California federal court alleging that Li pilfered over 12,000 files worth of critical documents and trade secrets. U.S. District Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo granted Pfizer’s motion for a temporary restraining order barring Li from using, disclosing or transmitting any confidential information or trade secrets owned by Pfizer, destroying or altering any of that information or destroying any devices storing the information. Li also must return any hard copy documents containing Pfizer’s confidential information or trade secrets, Judge Bencivengo said.

Hired as associate director of statistics in Pfizer’s global product development group at Pfizer’s facility in La Jolla, California in 2006, Li sought greener pastures at Xencor Inc. in 2021. Perhaps in the spirit of the upcoming holiday season, Li treated herself to a parting gift of what Pfizer calls its clinical “playbook.” Its complaint also cited misappropriation of documents containing operational goals, goals for various drugs including cancer drugs, clinical development plans and clinical trial techniques.
Continue Reading Bad Medicine: Pfizer Files Complaint to Halt Potential COVID-Related Trade Secret Misappropriation