An Illinois Appellate Court recently affirmed a preliminary injunction granted to a medical products manufacturer against its former employee, enforcing 24-months’ non-competition and non-solicitation agreements. The non-competition agreement barred the defendant-employee from competing with the plaintiff with respect to all products and territory assigned to the defendant during his final 18 months of employment. The non-solicitation agreement prohibited the defendant from soliciting or assisting in the solicitation of sales or leases of such products competitive with the plaintiff’s products in that same territory.
The court concluded that the defendant possessed confidential information concerning his ex-employer’s method of calculating so-called “open quotes,” offers to sell products in bulk to specific customers, even though the open quotes themselves were not confidential and they resulted in orders less than 50% of the time. Moreover, the competitor for whom the defendant went to work already was selling similar products to the same customers before the defendant changed employers. Furthermore, many of the plaintiff manufacturer’s employees did not have confidentiality agreements, and the defendant was not charged with taking any information with him when he left the plaintiff’s employ, other than what he had in his head. Lifetec, Inc. v. Edwards, No. 4-07-0300 (Ill.App., 4th Dist., Nov. 6, 2007).
The three appellate court justices were somewhat divided in their reasoning. Two ruled that the plaintiff had “legitimate business interests” in protecting its trade secrets, and found that the time and territorial restrictions applicable to the defendant were reasonable. The third justice concurred in the result. He expressed his opinion that enforcement is appropriate if an employer demonstrates that reasonable time and territorial restrictions were violated, but that courts should not impose on a plaintiff the additional burden of proving that it had a protectible or “legitimate” business interest.