Continuing our annual tradition, we have compiled our top developments and headlines for 2019 & 2020 in trade secret, non-compete, and computer fraud law. Here’s what you need to know to keep abreast of the ever-changing law in this area.

1. Another Year, Another Attempt in Congress to Ban Non-Competes Nationwide

Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) introduced legislation in 2019 entitled the Workforce Mobility Act (“WMA”). The WMA seeks to ban non-compete agreements outside of the sale of a business or dissolution of a partnership.

Not only would the WMA abolish covenants not to compete nationwide, outside of the extremely narrow exceptions highlighted above, but it would also provide the Department of Labor (DOL) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) with broad enforcement power. If enacted, the legislation would empower the FTC and DOL to enforce the ban through fines on employers who either fail to notify employees that non-compete agreements are illegal or who require employees to sign covenants not to compete. Additionally, the WMA establishes a private right of action for all employees allegedly aggrieved by a violation of the WMA.

The WMA contains a carve out for parties to enter into an agreement to protect trade secrets. As currently drafted, the WMA does not abrogate the scope of protections provided by the Defend Trade Secrets Act.

Presently, there are no generally applicable federal restrictions on non-compete agreements, and enacting such a law would have to pass Constitutional muster. We expect to see continued activity at the federal legislative level to attempt to ban or limit the use of non-competes.

2. New State Legislation Regarding Restrictive Covenants


Continue Reading

For the first time in 15 years, the Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”), Massachusetts’ highest court, issued a decision analyzing the enforceability of non-solicitation covenants, the distinction between such covenants in the context of the sale of a business versus employment, and equitable tolling of restrictive covenants. As set forth below, this decision serves as an important reminder to businesses who impose restrictive covenants governed by Massachusetts law.

Factual Background

While the factual background of the case is long and twisty, only a few key details are necessary to rehash here. The defendant Matthew McGovern (“McGovern”) entered into a restrictive covenants agreement with his former co-shareholders of the Prime Motor Group (“Prime”), in exchange for plaintiffs’ agreement to buy out McGovern’s minority share in Prime with no discount. The agreement, which was made a year after McGovern had been terminated as an employee and as part of a resolution of the parties’ dispute concerning McGovern’s alleged violation of an earlier restrictive covenants agreement, prohibited McGovern from hiring, soliciting, or encouraging Prime employees to leave Prime for 18 months. The agreement contained no tolling provision, but provided that plaintiffs would be entitled to injunctive relief if McGovern breached, without needing to prove irreparable harm.  
Continue Reading

Last summer, after a decade of fits and starts, and just minutes before the end of the 2018 legislative session, the Massachusetts legislature finally passed comprehensive non-compete reform, which went into effect on October 1, 2018. It had become almost a sport watching what the legislature would do at the end of each year with that current year’s version of non-compete reform, which ranged from all out bans to merely codifying the common law. (For a recap of the many twists and turns over the years, here is just a smattering of blog posts on the topic)

If you assumed that we would get 2019 off, you would be mistaken. As we pointed out in the pages of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly and Law360, the 2018 law caused as much confusion as it did clarity, and we predicted that amendments and clarifications would be necessary. And it didn’t take long for the first such clarification to be proposed. 
Continue Reading

As we’ve previously written about on this blog, last summer the Massachusetts legislature passed a non-compete reform bill which went into effect on October 1, 2018. Readers of this blog will recall our concerns that the new law is in many ways confusing and may lead to unpredictable results. Now, more than six months after its effective date, we have a second published decision out of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts citing the new Massachusetts Noncompetition Agreement Act (“MNCA”), Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, § 24L. Like the first published decision, this decision does not directly analyze an agreement that is subject to the Act, but it is still instructive for employers with personnel who may be subject to the MNCA. 
Continue Reading

On March 7, 2019, a group of six United States senators from both sides of the aisle submitted a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting a federal investigation into the use of non-compete agreements on the basis that their widening use in recent years raises concerns about their negative impact on both workers and the national economy.  Specifically, the letter asks the GAO to assess the following three questions:

  1. What is known about the prevalence of non-compete agreements in particular fields, including low-wage occupations?
  2. What is known about the effects of non-compete agreements on the workforce and the economy, including employment, wages and benefits, innovation, and entrepreneurship?
  3. What steps have selected states taken to limit the use of these agreements, and what is known about the effect these actions have had on employees and employers?


Continue Reading

As we’ve previously written about on this blog, last summer the Massachusetts legislature passed a non-compete reform bill which went into effect on October 1, 2018. Readers of this blog will recall our concerns that the new law is in many ways confusing and may lead to unpredictable results. Now, nearly five months after its effective date, Magistrate Judge Dein of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts has issued the first published decision citing the new Massachusetts Noncompetition Agreement Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, § 24L—unfortunately, this decision does not analyze an agreement that is subject to the Act, but it does confirm our suspicions that creative practitioners will try to use the new law to attack the enforceability of agreements entered into before the effective date.
Continue Reading

In Seyfarth’s first installment in its 2019 Trade Secrets Webinar Series, Seyfarth attorneys Michael Wexler, Robert Milligan, and Joshua Salinas reviewed noteworthy cases and legal developments from across the nation over the last year in the area of trade secrets and data theft, non-competes and other restrictive covenants, and computer fraud. Plus, they provided predictions

Last week, Florida Senator Marco Rubio introduced the “Freedom to Compete Act” (the “Act”) proposing to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 to ban non-competes for most non-exempt workers. The Act is broadly drafted to void any agreement that restricts “any work for another employer,” “any work in a specified geographical area,” and “any work for another employer that is similar” to the employee’s prior work. While it purports to void only non-compete agreements, the bill’s use of the sweeping language “any work” could be interpreted to ban not only non-compete agreements, but other post-employment restrictive covenants such as customer and employee non-solicitation agreements. Further, the Act (if passed) would purportedly apply retroactively to agreements entered into before its enactment. 
Continue Reading

Throughout 2018, Seyfarth Shaw’s dedicated Trade Secrets, Computer Fraud & Non-Competes Practice Group hosted a series of CLE webinars that addressed significant issues facing clients today in this important and ever-changing area of law. The series consisted of seven webinars:

  1. 2017 National Year in Review: What You Need to Know About the Recent Cases/Developments in Trade Secrets, Non-Compete and Computer Fraud Law
  2. Protecting Confidential Information and Client Relationships in the Financial Services Industry
  3. The Anatomy of a Trade Secret Audit
  4. Protecting Trade Secrets from Cyber and Other Threats
  5. 2018 Massachusetts Non-Compete and Trade Secrets Reform
  6. Protecting Trade Secrets Abroad and Enforcing Rights Abroad and in the U.S.
  7. Criminal Trade Secret Theft: What You Need to Know

As a conclusion to this well-received 2018 webinar series, we compiled a list of key takeaway points for each program, which are listed below. For those clients who missed any of the programs in this year’s series, recordings of the webinars are available on the blog, or you may click on the title of each available webinar below for the online recording. Seyfarth Trade Secrets, Computer Fraud & Non-Compete attorneys are happy to discuss presenting similar presentations to your company for CLE credit. Seyfarth will continue its trade secrets webinar programming in 2019, and we will release the 2019 trade secrets webinar series topics in the coming weeks.
Continue Reading

On Thursday, October 25, 2018, at 3:30 p.m. Eastern, Seyfarth Partner Dawn Mertineit will be a panelist for Boston Bar Association’s first ever Employment Law Conference. The “Non-Compete Agreements—What You Need to Know About the New Law” presentation is focused on the recently passed Massachusetts non-compete law and how it’s been affecting businesses with Massachusetts