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).
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 regular readers of this blog certainly remember the usual suspects of trade secret misappropriation are employees, former employees, and self-employed consultants. In our series of blog posts about international trade secret misappropriation and trade secret enforcement under the Belgian Trade Secrets Act, we also explained that actions based on trade secrets misappropriation are in principle heard by the Enterprise Court. However, if the defendant is an employee or an ex-employee suspected of trade secret misappropriation during the course of employment, then the labor court has jurisdiction.
Continue Reading International Issues in Trade Secret Law Series: Longer Statute of Limitations Confirmed in Cases of Trade Secrets Misappropriation by Former Employees
The Sedona Conference, Working Group 12 on Trade Secrets, has issued guidance on protecting trade secrets throughout the employment life cycle. This significant Commentary analyzes the tension between an employer’s interest in protecting its trade secrets and an employee’s interest in engaging in future employment.
Continue Reading The Sedona Conference Issues Commentary on Protecting Trade Secrets Throughout the Employment Life Cycle
As we have previously posted, proper trade secret identification is often a key issue for parties bringing or defending against trade secret misappropriation claims. The precise standard of identification varies across jurisdictions and continues to evolve, but trade secret identification often functions as a gating issue early in a case. A recent decision from the Third Circuit serves as reminder that failure to properly identify purported trade secrets may not just be fatal to a party’s claim, but may render a preliminary injunction unenforceable.
Continue Reading Half-Baked Trade Secret Identification Leads Third Circuit to Vacate Preliminary Injunction
On June 8, 2021, the Third Circuit clarified the requirements for making a trade secret misappropriation claim under the Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”) in a decision vacating the District of New Jersey’s dismissal of a trade secret misappropriation lawsuit against a former employee and his current employer. In short, the Third Circuit’s decision took a more relaxed view than the District Court, finding that a trade-secret plaintiff need not “spell out the details of its trade secret” or have direct allegations of misappropriation and harm to avoid dismissal.
Continue Reading The Third Circuit Clarifies DTSA Pleading Requirements, While Vacating Dismissal
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) recently found that trade secret misappropriation by employees who then use the trade secrets to compete is actionable under Massachusetts’ Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Law. The SJC’s ruling in Governo Law Firm v. Bergeron means that Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Statute, Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 93A Section 11 (“Chapter 93A”), now applies to trade secret disputes in the employer-employer context. Previously, such cases were considered an “internal matter” and therefore not actionable.
Continue Reading Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Rules that Employees May be Held Liable to Their Employer Under Massachusetts’ Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Law
First off, don’t worry, Coca-Cola’s super-secret trade secret recipe is still safe. But on April 22, 2021, a jury in the Eastern District of Tennessee convicted a former Coca-Cola employee, Dr. Xiaorong (a/k/a Shannon) You, of stealing trade secrets related to BPA-free coatings for the inside of beverage cans for the Chinese Government. The Indictment alleged that the trade secret information cost almost $120 million to develop. The twelve-day in-person trial focused not just on the former employee’s wrong doing, but also on some the best practices Coca-Cola and Eastman Chemical Company used to protect the trade secrets at issue.
Continue Reading Former Coca-Cola Employee Convicted of Stealing Trade Secrets for the Chinese Government
On October 2, 2020, a federal judge for the Central District of California denied a motion for a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) to enjoin the Discovery Channel from airing “The Lost Lincoln,” a documentary about an allegedly long-lost photograph of Abraham Lincoln on his deathbed. Only 130 photographs of Lincoln are known to exist.
Plaintiffs Jerry Spolar and Terry Williamson own the photograph, known as an ambrotype, and spent years researching and authenticating it. In 2018, they partnered with Whitny and James Braun to make a documentary about the photo and shared the details of their authentication efforts with the Brauns pursuant to non-disclosure agreements. The project fell through at first, but late last month, Plaintiffs learned that their former partners had created a documentary about the photograph for the Discovery Channel.
Continue Reading Court Denies TRO in “The Lost Lincoln” Misappropriation Case