On May 2, 2022, the New Jersey Legislature introduced Bill A3715, adding to the growing number of states seeking to curtail the use of non-compete and non-solicitation agreements by employers. While passage of the bill is uncertain, A3715, if enacted in its current form, would make New Jersey one of the most inhospitable forums for employers seeking to enforce such agreements. Among a number of sweeping changes, including outright banning the use of post-employment restrictive covenants against a broad range of workers and otherwise limiting their duration to a maximum of 12 months, the proposed law further requires employers to pay 100 percent of the separated employee’s wages and benefits during the duration of the restricted period.
A federal court in Texas recently provided useful insights on what constitutes “solicitation” by a former employee under that employee’s restrictive covenant with his former employer, and the court provided further insights on what inferences courts will, and will not, draw in favor of a plaintiff seeking a preliminary injunction based on alleged misappropriation of trade secrets.
The defendant worked for the plaintiff, Sunbelt, for over twenty years, primarily as a salesperson covering institutional customers. As part of his employment, the defendant signed an employment agreement that, among other things, prohibited him from “solicit[ing]” Sunbelt’s customers or competing with Sunbelt within a certain geographic area. He later left to join one of Sunbelt’s competitors. Sunbelt filed suit and sought a preliminary injunction, asserting that the employed had, among other things, solicited Sunbelt’s former customers, worked for Sunbelt’s competitor within the area prohibited by the non-competition agreement, and misappropriated Sunbelt’s trade secrets. …
Continue Reading Federal Court Provides Insight on Meaning of “Solicitation” and Plaintiff’s Burden on Motion for Preliminary Injunction
In what may seem to be a surprising series of events, given the state’s infamous hostility to restrictive covenants, a California appellate panel recently affirmed a Los Angeles Superior Court judgment effectively enjoining Netflix from soliciting certain employees subject to specific fixed-term employment agreements with Fox. More specifically, the panel—applying reasoning similar to the California Supreme Court’s in Ixchel Pharma, LLC v. Biogen, Inc.—upheld the trial court’s granting of summary adjudication in favor of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and Fox 21, Inc. (collectively, “Fox”) on their claim under Business and Professions Code sections 17200, et seq. against Netflix Inc. (“Netflix”) and corresponding injunction in an unpublished but closely followed decision.
In affirming the judgment, the panel expressly rejected Netflix’s contention that the injunction, which prohibits Netflix, “individually … and/or in concert with others,” from “solicit[ing] employees who are subject to [f]ixed-[t]erm [e]mployment [a]greements with [Fox] or induc[ing] such employees to breach their valid [f]ixed-[t]erm [e]mployment [a]greements with [Fox],” constituted “an invalid restraint on employee mobility” under California public policy, Business and Professions Code section 16600, and other statutes concerning personal services contracts. The panel acknowledged each of these arguments and underlying public policy concerns, but ultimately found that they were not supported by the facts at hand, particularly in light of countervailing policies “favoring the stability and predictability of fixed-term employment relationships.” The panel also observed that the injunction had been carefully limited, and narrowly drawn by the trial court to curb wrongful conduct by Netflix without impeding the ability of individual employees to independently seek out new employment. …
Continue Reading California Court of Appeal Affirms Injunction Barring Netflix From Poaching Fox Executives, Citing Unfair Competition
A decade ago, the Georgia legislature enacted a new restrictive covenant statute, O.C.G.A. § 13-8-51 et al. (the “Georgia RCA”). Among other things, the Georgia RCA permitted Georgia courts to blue-pencil or “modify a covenant that is otherwise void and unenforceable so long as the modification does not render the covenant more restrictive with regard to the employee than as originally drafted by the parties.” O.C.G.A. § 13-8-53(d).
Continue Reading Georgia Business Court Utilizes Georgia’s Restrictive Covenants Act to Modify the Applicable Time Period of a Customer Non-Solicit Provision
In-house attorneys often wear multiple hats when performing work for private companies. Some of their work clearly falls under the provision of legal services, while others can be less clear quasi-business roles. And when those in-house lawyers who perform non-legal work are asked to sign a non-compete agreement in connection with their employment, questions can arise both as to the enforceability of those agreements and whether an attorney violates the rules of professional conduct by signing such an agreement as we have previously discussed.
Continue Reading Another Decision Addressing Non-Competes for In-House Counsel
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.
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 Massachusetts’ High Court Pumps the Brakes on Equitable Tolling of Restrictive Covenant
On Tuesday, February 26, 2019, at 12 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. Eastern, Seyfarth Partner and Trade Secrets, Computer Fraud & Non-Compete Practice Group Co-Chair Robert Milligan is presenting a webinar for myLawCLE, a partner of the Federal Bar Association. The “Latest Developments in Trade Secrets Law and Non-Compete and Non-Solicitation Agreements” webinar covers some of the recent developments in trade…
Continue Reading Robert Milligan to Present Webinar on Latest Developments in Trade Secrets Law and Non-Compete Agreements
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:
- 2017 National Year in Review: What You Need to Know About the Recent Cases/Developments in Trade Secrets, Non-Compete and Computer Fraud Law
- Protecting Confidential Information and Client Relationships in the Financial Services Industry
- The Anatomy of a Trade Secret Audit
- Protecting Trade Secrets from Cyber and Other Threats
- 2018 Massachusetts Non-Compete and Trade Secrets Reform
- Protecting Trade Secrets Abroad and Enforcing Rights Abroad and in the U.S.
- 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 2018 Trade Secrets and Non-Competes Webinar Series Year in Review
On Wednesday, November 28, 2018, at 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. Eastern, Seyfarth Partner and Trade Secrets, Computer Fraud & Non-Compete Practice Group Co-Chair Robert Milligan is presenting a Strafford live webinar. The “Drafting Enforceable Non-compete and Non-Solicitation Agreements: Compliance with New State Statutes and Case Law” webinar panel will discuss recent legislative and case law trends regarding non-compete and non-solicitation…
Continue Reading Robert Milligan to Present Webinar on Non-Competes and Non-Solicitation Agreements
What Businesses Need to Know About Non-Compete and Trade Secrets Law
Seyfarth’s Trade Secrets, Computer Fraud, and Non-Competes Practice Group is pleased to provide the 2018-2019 edition of our one-stop 50 State Desktop Reference, which surveys the most-asked questions related to the use of restrictive covenants and intellectual capital protection in all 50 states, including the recent non-compete legislation passed…