New Year’s Resolution Series – Ringing Your Post-Employment Covenants into the New Year

Many state legislatures spent 2017 tinkering with post-employment covenants.  Given the growing trend to legislate locally and the employee mobility issues that seem to nag every employer, we thought the New Year would be a perfect time to review and revisit your post-employment covenants. So for our multi-jurisdictional employers (which seems to be everyone these days), how do your post-employment covenants legally measure up?

Even California got into the act this year. Everyone (well, almost everyone) knows of the long-time California legislative non-compete ban (except in the context of a sale of business or equity). But did you know that as of 2017 California now regulates choice of law provisions in employment contracts? This new Labor Code provisionwas passed in an effort to stamp out the practice of some out-of-state employers who were using choice of law/venue provisions in the hope of applying some other state’s law to their California-based employees, thereby (they hoped) avoiding California’s non-compete ban. A review of that provision is in order for any employer hiring individuals in California.

Other states have gotten into the act by banning or regulating non-competes. Nevada, not known for its active employee mobility legislation, passed legislation this year governing non-competes, joining ColoradoFloridaGeorgia, Illinois, and Texas, to name a few. New Jersey is also actively considering similar legislation.

And while Massachusetts tried but failed to pass statewide legislation, don’t overlook specific Massachusetts provisions addressing non-competes for Physiciansnursespsychologistssocial workers, and those in the broadcasting industry.

But don’t stop at a state law review. Remember: many states (and many state statutes) require an assessment of the reasonableness of post-employment covenants. The very best evidence of reasonableness is employer mindfulness regarding what agreements are truly necessary to protect some legitimate interest of the employer – and, most importantly, a deep dive into why they are necessary.

So here are a few action items to consider for your post-employment covenants resolution for 2018:

  • Where are your employees performing services for you? Do your post-employment covenants comply with the legislative mandates applicable in the various jurisdictions in which you have employees?
  • What impact, if any, do promotions have on your employees? Do they now have access to sensitive information, in addition to expanded job duties? If so, should they have new or different post-employment covenants?
  • How if at all has your business changed? Are you doing business in new locations or have you abandoned business in other locations?
  • Are post-employment covenants truly necessary – or will a solid proprietary rights agreement (and the applicable trade secrets law) provide the legal protection you really need?
  • Are you just as eager to recruit individuals bound by these agreements as you are to enforce your own? Have you considered the possible cognitive dissonance of such an approach?

We hope you have enjoyed our New Year’s Resolution Series and we look forward to a prosperous, productive and compliant 2018!

©1994-2017 Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. All Rights Reserved.

Non-Competes Call to Action, Transgender Bathrooms, Texas Court Blocks Blacklisting Rule: Employment Law This Week November 7, 2016 [VIDEO]

White House Issues Call to Action on Non-Competes

Our top story: The White House issues a call to action. The administration is calling on states to combat what it describes as the “gross overuse of non-compete clauses today.” The statement recommends legislation banning non-competes for certain categories of workers and prohibiting courts from narrowing overly broad agreements. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman answered the call immediately, announcing that he would introduce relevant legislation in 2017.

“President Obama’s call to action encouraged states to take action to do three things. One, to ban non-competes for certain types of employees, such as low-wage earners; two, to increase transparency in the way that employers communicated with employees about non-competes; and three, to incentivize employers to write non-competes that are enforceable. … It used to be that non-competes were subject to scrutiny in the courtroom, but now we’re seeing that scrutiny also in the media and in the political arena. … With scrutiny of non-competes occurring in additional fora, it’s important for employers to review their non-competes, both to make sure that they are enforceable and to make sure that they’re administered to appropriate levels of employees.”

High Court Will Hear Transgender Bathroom Case

The Supreme Court will examine the definition of “sex discrimination.” The High Court has agreed to hear a case involving a transgender student and his use of the boys’ bathroom at school. The legal issue at the center of the case is the interpretation of regulations implementing Title IX, which bans sex discrimination in schools. The Department of Education has put out guidance interpreting “sex discrimination” to include claims based on gender identity, and the Fourth Circuit deferred to that interpretation in this case. This case could have implications for other laws that prohibit sex discrimination, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Texas Court Blocks Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Regulations

Federal contractors get a reprieve from the “blacklisting” rule. A Texas federal court issued a temporary nationwide injunction on portions of the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule. The executive order includes controversial disclosure requirements for government contractors and restrictions on arbitration. The district court ruled that the prohibition on certain arbitration agreements conflicted with the Federal Arbitration Act, and the reporting requirements could allow contractors to be disqualified from obtaining contracts without due process.

New York City Council Passes First Freelancer Wage Protection Law

The New York City Council has passed the nation’s first legislation bolstering protections for freelancers. The “Freelance Isn’t Free” Act, which passed unanimously, implements penalties for employers who do not pay freelance workers within 30 days of services rendered. In addition, the Act requires a written contract for freelance work worth $800 or more. The contract must include an itemized accounting of the work to be performed and the rate of pay. Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to sign the bill.

Tip of the Week

Brian Chevlin, Senior Vice President and General Counsel for Pernod Ricard USA, is here with some advice on how to build a committed legal team through a culture of appreciation.

©2016 Epstein Becker & Green, P.C. All rights reserved.

Illinois Supreme Court Establishes A New Test To Determine Whether Non-Compete Agreements Are Enforceable

Posted in the National Law Review on December 17, 2011 an article by Eric H. RumbaughBrian P. Paul and  Sarah E. Flotte of Michael Best & Friedrich  LLP regarding  Illinois Supreme Court’s clarification whether a non-compete agreement or other restrictive c ovenant is enforceable:

In a case with favorable implications for employers, in Reliable Fire Equip. Co. v. Arredondo, 2011 IL 111871 (Ill. Dec. 1, 2011), the Illinois Supreme Court clarified the “legitimate business interest test” that Illinois courts must use to determine whether a non-compete agreement or other restrictive covenant is enforceable. BeforeArredondo, appellate courts in Illinois were divided on how to apply this test, which resulted in uncertainty and legal expense for businesses and employees. The Arredondo decision provides clarity and a reasonable rule, both of which should help employers reduce risk and uncertainty.

This dispute began in late 2009, when the Fourth District of the Illinois Appellate Court took the position that an enforceable non-compete agreement only had to be reasonable as to time and geography. In doing so, the Fourth District rejected the legitimate business interest test that required that a former employer establish either that confidential information or near-permanent customer relationships were at risk if the non-compete agreement was not enforced. The legitimate business interest test had been used consistently by Illinois Appellate courts since 1975. However, after the Fourth District’s decision, almost every Illinois appellate court district struggled with the Fourth District’s opinion and, as a result, each district developed its own standards. Thus, employers and employees had to evaluate which district their lawsuit would proceed in before either could figure out whether the non-compete agreement was enforceable.

Thus, the Illinois Supreme Court agreed to hear Reliable Fire Equip., a very typical non-compete case where Arnold Arredondo (“Arredondo”) and Rene Garcia (“Garcia”) were employed as salespersons for Reliable Fire Equipment Company (“Reliable”). Reliable sells installs and services portable fire extinguishers and related equipment. Both Arredondo and Garcia signed a non-compete agreement prohibiting them from competing with Reliable in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin for one year after their termination. When Arredondo and Garcia went to work for a newly formed competitor, Reliable sued to enforce the non-compete agreements.

The Trial Court ruled that the covenant was unenforceable, finding that Reliable had failed to identify a legitimate business interest that needed to be protected by the non-compete agreements. A divided panel of the Appellate Court upheld the Circuit Court’s order, but questioned whether it was applying the appropriate test for non-compete agreements.

The Illinois Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings. In doing so, the Court held that a valid and enforceable non-compete agreement must meet three basic components of reasonableness:

A restrictive covenant, assuming it is ancillary to a valid employment relationship, is reasonable only if the covenant: (1) is no greater than is required for the protection of a legitimate business interest of the employer-promisee; (2) does not impose undue hardship on the employee-promisor, and (3) is not injurious to the public.

However, the Supreme Court then went one step further. Over the last 36 years, the Appellate Court decisions that applied the legitimate business interest test had held that there were only two legitimate business interests that would justify enforcing a non-compete agreement: (1) protecting confidential information; and (2) protecting near-permanent customer relationships.  The Illinois Supreme Court rejected the rigidity of this standard, holding that the Illinois Appellate Court decisions of the last 36 years are “are only nonconclusive aids in determining the promisee’s legitimate business interest.”

Under Reliable, the new standard for determining whether a legitimate business interest exists is:

[B]ased on the totality of the facts and circumstances of the individual case. Factors to be considered in this analysis include, but are not limited to, the near-permanence of customer relationships, the employee’s acquisition of confidential information through his employment, and time and place restrictions. No factor carries any more weight than any other, but rather its importance will depend on the specific facts and circumstances of the individual case.

Most carefully drafted non-compete agreements for use in Illinois proactively identify confidential information and near-permanent customer relationships as the business interests the employer is trying to protect. Given this ruling, the door is open for employers to enforce restrictive covenants in a broader range of circumstances and even perhaps for the purpose of protecting customer goodwill. Employers should reevaluate their non-compete agreements in light of the decision in Reliable Fire Equip. Co. v. Arredondo to determine whether additional business interests should be identified as protectable business interests and whether additional job positions now warrant non-compete agreements.

© MICHAEL BEST & FRIEDRICH LLP

Non-Compete Agreements: A Brave New World in Illinois

Posted on December 8th in the National Law Review an article by attorney Anthony C. Valiulis of  Much Shelist Denenberg Ament & Rubenstein P.C. regarding Illinois Supreme Court’s recent changes regarding non-compete & non-solicitation agreements:

 

 

On Thursday, December 1, 2011, the Illinois Supreme Court dramatically changed state law regarding non-compete and non-solicitation agreements. In Reliable Fire Equipment Company v. Arredondo, the court adopted a new test for determining the enforceability of an employee restrictive covenant.

For the last 30 or so years, Illinois courts have generally held that there were essentially only two “legitimate business interests” that could support a restrictive covenant in the employment context: (1) a company’s confidential information or (2) near-permanent relationships with customers. As we have discussed in previous articles, the Fourth District rejected this test in Sunbelt Rentals, Inc. v. Ehlers, holding that a restrictive covenant could be upheld regardless of the existence of a legitimate business interest—provided that the scope of the covenant was reasonable. The Second District rejected Sunbelt in the Reliablecase but held open the possibility that there could be more than the two traditional legitimate business interests. In the Second District Court’s decision, the concurring opinion felt that the test should be based on the totality of the circumstances involved in each particular case. It was this position that the Illinois Supreme Court adopted in its December 1 opinion.

According to the Illinois Supreme Court, for an employee restrictive covenant to be enforceable, its restrictions must be “(1) no greater than is required for the protection of a legitimate business interest of the employer-promisee; (2) does not impose undue hardship on the employee-promisor; and (3) is not injurious to the public.” That has been pretty much the law for the last 30 years. But the important portion of the Reliable decision relates to the test for determining whether a legitimate business interest exists. It is here that the Illinois Supreme Court has created a brave new world.

According to the Reliable court, “[W]hether a legitimate business interest exists is based on the totality of the facts and circumstances of the individual case.” In reviewing that totality, a court is to consider various factors, including but not limited to “the near-permanence of customer relationships, the employee’s acquisition of confidential information through his [or her] employment, and time and place restrictions.” But the Illinois Supreme Court made it clear that these factors are not exclusive. Moreover, “[N]o factor carries any more weight than any other, but rather its importance will depend on the specific facts and circumstances of the individual case.”

So what does all this mean? Well, we now have a clear statement, articulated by the state’s highest court, of the test for enforceability. But what we do not have is certainty. Under this “totality of the circumstances” test, it will be very difficult to determine whether a particular restrictive covenant will be enforceable or not. As these cases are litigated over time, more certainty will undoubtedly arise. As of now, however, we can only speculate about what additional factors will be important. Goodwill is likely to be one. So might an employee’s unique value.

What is a business to do in the wake of the Reliable decision? First and foremost, all existing restrictive covenants should be reviewed to determine, under the particular set of facts applicable to your business, what might be enforceable. Although there is no certainty, there are drafting measures that can and should be taken to help make your agreements fit into this brave new world.

© 2011 Much Shelist Denenberg Ament & Rubenstein, P.C.

Are Restrictive Covenants Enforceable in California? It Depends.

Recently posted in the National Law Review an article by attorneys Alice Y. Chu and Kurt A. Kappes of Greenberg Traurig, LLP regarding the enforeceability of non-competes in California:

 

GT Law

 

In California, it is well established that non-compete provisions are unenforceable, subject to certain statutory exceptions. Nevertheless, some courts have also recognized that non-compete provisions are enforceable if necessary to protect confidential information or trade secrets.

But what about non-compete provisions that are ambiguous as to their protection of confidential information or trade secrets? Recently, when faced with such a provision, one California federal court narrowly construed the provision to find it enforceable.

The Facts in Richmond

In Richmond Technologies, Inc. v. Aumtech Business Solutions, No. 11–CV–02460–LHK, 2011 WL 2607158 (N.D. Cal. July 1, 2011), a California federal district court evaluated the following provisions included in the parties’ Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure Agreement (“NDA”):1

Non–Solicitation. During the Term of this Employment (a[s] hereinafter defined), and for a period of one year thereafter, [defendant] [shall not] directly or indirectly, initiate any contact or communication with, solicit or attempt to solicit the employee of, or enter into any agreement with any employee, consultant, sales representative, or account manager of [plaintiff] unless such person has ceased its relationship with [plaintiff] for a period of not less than six months. Similarly [plaintiff] shall not solicit the employment of, or enter into any agreement with any employee, consultant or representative of [defendant].

Non–Interference. During the Term of this Employment, and for a period of one year thereafter, [defendant] will not initiate any contact or communication with, solicit or attempt to solicit, or enter into any agreement with, any account, acquiring bank, merchant, customer, client, or vendor of [plaintiff] in the products created and serviced by [plaintiff], unless (a) such person has ceased its relationship with [plaintiff] for a period of not less than six months, or (b) [defendant]’s relationship and association with such person both (i) pre-existed the date of this Agreement and (ii) does not directly or indirectly conflict with any of the current or reasonably anticipated future business of [plaintiff].

Non Compete and Non Circumvent. [Defendant] will not compete with [plaintiff] with similar product and or Service using its technology for a period of one year thereafter. [Defendant] will not use any of the [plaintiff]’s technical knowhow or Source Code for the personal benefit other than the employment and to meet the customer needs defined by [plaintiff].2

The NDA also contained a provision that barred the defendant from disclosing or using confidential information used in plaintiff’s business.3 Confidential information was defined to include “Proprietary Data,” such as “know-how,” contract terms and conditions with merchants, technical data, and source code; “Business and Financial Data;” “Marketing and Developing Operations;” and “Customers, Vendors, Contractors, and Employees,” including their names and identities, data provided by customers, and information on the products and services purchased by customers.4

The Richmond Court’s Analysis

In evaluating plaintiff’s motion for a temporary restraining order, the court assessed plaintiff’s claim that, by teaming up with plaintiff’s former employee to form a competing venture, the defendant had breached the non-compete provisions of the NDA.5 Defendants argued that the plaintiff was not likely to prevail on its contract claims because the non-compete provisions in the NDA are unenforceable under California Business and Professions Code § 16600.6

Within this context, the court first noted that the California Supreme Court had recently confirmed that “‘[t]oday in California, covenants not to compete are void, subject to several exceptions,” and that the California Supreme Court “‘generally condemns noncompetition agreements.’”7

Second, the court also observed that the California Supreme Court had rejected the “narrow-restraints” exception to Section 16600 applied in several Ninth Circuit cases, finding that “‘California courts have been clear in their expression that section 16600 represents a strong public policy of the state which should not be diluted by judicial fiat.’”8 As the court stated, “Section 16600 stands as a broad prohibition on ‘every contract by which anyone is restrained from engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind.’”9

Third, the court rejected plaintiff’s argument that Section 16600 applies only to restrictions on employees, concluding that Section 16600 did apply to the facts of the case.10

Fourth, the court acknowledged that, even though Section 16600 applied, a number of California courts have also held that former employees may not misappropriate a former employer’s trade secrets to compete unfairly with the former employer.11

Applying these principles, the court held that the non-solicitation and non-interference provisions of the NDA were likely unenforceable under California law because the provisions were more broadly drafted than necessary to protect plaintiff’s trade secrets and “would have the effect of restraining Defendants from pursuing their chosen business and professions if enforced.”12

In regards to the non-compete provision, the court reasoned that “the scope of the prohibitions on ‘compet[ing] with [plaintiff] with similar product and or Service using its technology” and using ‘technical knowhow’ is not entirely clear.”13 However, the court then concluded that “if the clause is construed to bar only the use of confidential source code, software, or techniques developed for [plaintiff’s] products or clients, it is likely enforceable as necessary to protect [plaintiff]’s trade secrets.”14

To support this construction, the court specifically cited the California Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“UTSA”)’definition of a “trade secret,” even though plaintiff had not alleged a UTSA claim against the defendants and the UTSA was not briefed.15 The court also found that the provision prohibiting use of confidential information was likely enforceable to the extent that the claimed confidential information is protectable as a trade secret.16

Based on these conclusions regarding the enforceability of the provisions, and facts showing that plaintiff had established at least serious questions going to the merits of its claims, the court issued a narrow temporary restraining order.17

IMPLICATIONS

Richmond demonstrates that at least one California federal court may be willing to narrowly construe an ambiguous non-compete provision and find it enforceable to the extent necessary to protect a party’s trade secrets. In so doing, however, the court invites comparisons to California cases where courts have refused to narrowly construe broad non-compete provisions to be protections of trade secrets.18 For example, in D’sa v. Playhut, Inc., 85 Cal. App. 4th 927 (2000), a Court of Appeals refused to reform a non-compete provision that broadly prohibited employees from working in connection with a competing product.19 But D’sa was strictly in the employment context, where courts are more likely to look for over-reaching. Arguably, moreover, the provision at issue in D’Sa was broader than the provision considered inRichmond, which expressly referenced “technology,” “technical knowhow,” and “Source Code” in its language. Nevertheless, even with these references, the Richmond court conceded that the scope of the provision was “not entirely clear,” yet was willing to reform it to find it enforceable.

Furthermore, in enforcing the non-compete provision, the Richmond court also relied on the so-called “trade secret exception” to Section 1660020 — an exception that the California Supreme Court noted but declined to address in Edwards v. Arthur Andersen LLP44 Cal. 4th 937, 946 n.4 (2008). This is an exception that other courts, particularly state courts, have questioned.21 This reliance suggests that, in the absence of conclusive guidance from the California Supreme Court on the viability of this exception, federal courts may remain willing to apply this exception to non-compete provisions perhaps as a way to harmonize the two statutes. In doing so, it is possible that the same collision between federal jurisprudence and state jurisprudence that gave rise to the Edwards decision may lie ahead. The California Supreme Court will then have an opportunity to address a key issue that the Supreme Court left unaddressed in a footnote in Edwards.

Finally, even with the uncertainty over the viability of the “trade secret exception” and whether courts will narrowly construe a non-compete provision to find it enforceable, companies should ensure non-compete provisions are drafted to clearly and specifically protect trade secrets, thereby increasing the likelihood that such a provision will be enforced.


1Plaintiff is a company that provides enterprise resource planning software for financial service companies that provide credit card terminals to merchants. Id. at *1. One of the defendants developed and maintained enterprise resource planning software for the plaintiff and, pursuant to this relationship, entered into this NDA with plaintiff’s predecessor-in-interest. Id. at *1-2.

2Id. at *16.
3Id. at *16.
4Id. at *16.
5Richmond Technologies, Inc. v. Aumtech Business Solutions, No. 11–CV–02460–LHK, 2011 WL 2607158, at *15-22 (N.D. Cal. July 1, 2011).
6Id. at *16.
7Richmond Technologies, Inc. v. Aumtech Business Solutions, No. 11–CV–02460–LHK, 2011 WL 2607158, at *16 (N.D. Cal. July 1, 2011)(quoting Edwards v. Arthur Andersen LLP, 44 Cal. 4th 937, 945-46 (2008)).
8Richmond Technologies, Inc. v. Aumtech Business Solutions, No. 11–CV–02460–LHK, 2011 WL 2607158, at *17 (N.D. Cal. July 1, 2011)(quoting Edwards v. Arthur Andersen LLP, 44 Cal. 4th 937, 949 (2008)).
9Richmond Technologies, Inc. v. Aumtech Business Solutions, No. 11–CV–02460–LHK, 2011 WL 2607158, at *17 (N.D. Cal. July 1, 2011)(quoting Cal. Bus. & Profs. Code § 16600).
10Richmond Technologies, Inc. v. Aumtech Business Solutions, No. 11–CV–02460–LHK, 2011 WL 2607158, at *17 (N.D. Cal. July 1, 2011).
11Richmond Technologies, Inc. v. Aumtech Business Solutions, No. 11–CV–02460–LHK, 2011 WL 2607158 at *18 (N.D. Cal. July 1, 2011)(quoting Retirement Group v. Galante, 176 Cal. App. 4th 1226, 1237 (2009)(citing Morlife Inc. v. Perry, 56 Cal. App. 4th 1514, 1519-20 (1997); American Credit Indemnity Co. v. Sacks, 213 Cal. App. 3d 622, 634 (1989); Southern Cal. Disinfecting Co. v. Lomkin, 183 Cal. App. 2d 431, 442–448 (1960); Hollingsworth Solderless Terminal Co. v. Turley, 622 F.2d 1324, 1338 (9th Cir. 1980); Gordon v. Landau, 49 Cal. 2d 690 (1958); Gordon v. Schwartz, 147 Cal. App. 2d 213 (1956); Gordon v. Wasserman, 153 Cal. App. 2d 328 (1957)).
12Id. at *18.
13Id. at *19.
14Richmond Technologies, Inc. v. Aumtech Business Solutions, No. 11–CV–02460–LHK, 2011 WL 2607158, at *19 (N.D. Cal. July 1, 2011)(citing Whyte v. Schlage Lock Co., 101 Cal. App. 4th 1443, 1456 (2002)). Interestingly, there is theoretically no temporal limit to a trade secret, so the one year limit of the non-compete provision actually undercut the plaintiff’s protection!
15See Richmond Technologies, Inc. v. Aumtech Business Solutions, No. 11–CV–02460–LHK, 2011 WL 2607158, at *19 (N.D. Cal. July 1, 2011)(citing Cal. Civ.Code § 3426.1(defining “trade secret” to include programs, methods, and techniques that derive independent economic value from not being generally known to the public, provided they are subject to reasonable efforts to maintain their secrecy)).
16Richmond Technologies, Inc. v. Aumtech Business Solutions, No. 11–CV–02460–LHK, 2011 WL 2607158, at *19 (N.D. Cal. July 1, 2011)
17Id. at *23.
18Perhaps this decision also signals a willingness among California federal courts to protect employer’s interests by reforming or severing provisions that may not comply with Section 16600. See also Thomas Weisel Partners LLC v. BNP Paribas, No. C 07–6198 MHP, 2010 WL 1267744 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 10, 2010)(holding that a former employee’s non-solicitation provision was void to the extent it restricted the former employee’s ability to hire the employer’s employees after the former employee transitioned to another company, but upholding the rest of the employment agreement). These decisions may renew forum shopping, the ill that the California Supreme Court’s decision in Edwards v. Arthur Andersen LLP, 44 Cal. 4th 937 (2008) was implicitly designed to address.
19The provision stated: “Employee will not render services, directly or indirectly, for a period of one year after separation of employment with Playhut, Inc. to any person or entity in connection with any Competing Product. A ‘Competing Product’ shall mean any products, processes or services of any person or entity other than Playhut, Inc. in existence or under development, which are substantially the same, may be substituted for, or applied to substantially that same end use as the products, processes or services with which I work during the time of my employment with Playhut, Inc. or about which I work during the time of my employment with Playhut Inc. or about which I acquire Confidential Information through my work with Playhut, Inc. Employee agrees that, upon accepting employment with any organization in competition with the Company or its affiliates during a period of five year(s) following employment separation, Employee shall notify the Company in writing within thirty days of the name and address of such new employer.” D’sa v. Playhut, Inc., 85 Cal. App. 4th 927, 930 -31(2000).
20Richmond Technologies, Inc. v. Aumtech Business Solutions, No. 11–CV–02460–LHK, 2011 WL 2607158 at *18 (N.D. Cal. July 1, 2011).
21As an example of the trend, see, e.g., Dowell v. Biosense Webster, Inc., 179 Cal. App. 4th 564, 577 (2009)(“Although we doubt the continued viability of the common law trade secret exception to covenants not to compete, we need not resolve the issue here.”); Robinson v. U-Haul Co. of California, Nos. A124070, A124097, A124096, 2010 WL 4113578, at *10 (Cal. Ct. App. Oct. 20, 2010)(“the so-called ‘trade secrets’ exception to Business and Professions Code section 16600 . . .rests on shaky legal grounds”)(citing Edwards v. Arthur Andersen LLP, 44 Cal. 4th 937, 946 n.4 (2008); Dowell v. Biosense Webster, Inc., 179 Cal. App. 4th 564, 578 (2009);Retirement Group v. Galante, 176 Cal. App. 4th 1226, 1238 (2009)). When the apparent conflict in this area is addressed, perhaps the California Supreme Court will defuse it entirely, by agreeing with the way the court in Retirement Group v. Galante, 176 Cal. App. 4th 1226 (2009) reconciled it: “the conduct is enjoinable not because it falls within a judicially-created ‘exception’ to section 16600’s ban on contractual nonsolicitation clauses, but is instead enjoinable because it is wrongful independent of any contractual undertaking.” Retirement Group v. Galante, 176 Cal. App. 4th at 1238.

©2011 Greenberg Traurig, LLP. All rights reserved.