Called upon by the Ninth Circuit in Ixchel Pharma, LLC v. Biogen, Inc. to answer two key questions concerning the validity of a settlement provision requiring a party’s termination of a collaboration agreement with a third-party, the California Supreme Court unanimously held:
- to state a claim for tortious interference with an at-will contract, a plaintiff must allege that the defendant engaged in an independently wrongful act, and
- in determining the validity of a competitive restriction in a business-to-business agreement under Business and Professions Code section 16600, the rule of reason applies and such restriction is not per se void.
The Court’s decision will impact how companies contracting under California law decide to set up their contracts and whether they will agree to the at-will termination of such contracts. The decision also provides some clarity for businesses that include competitive restraints with other companies in their commercial dealings, such as exclusive dealing and collaboration agreements, licenses, leases, and franchise agreements, as such restraints are not per se void under Section 16600 but subject to a rule of reason analysis.
Continue Reading California Supreme Court Clarifies Pleading Requirements for Claims of Tortious Interference with At-Will Contracts and Adopts Rule of Reason in Evaluating Competitive Restraints in Contracts Between Businesses