On October 23, 2013 Judge Hiller of the Connecticut Superior Court declined to enforce a one year non-compete brought by a lighting and lighting design company against one of its former designers, Chris Brown. See the decision in Sylvan Shemitz Designs, Inc. v. Brown.
In March 2013, Brown resigned his job for the plaintiff, and went to work at Acuity, a larger company that had four separate divisions focused in lighting controls. The plaintiff sued Brown and alleged that he breached a 2011 non-compete agreement, which indicated he could not work for one year for businesses in the United States that receive 25 percent of revenue from developing, manufacturing or selling lighting control systems. The court found that the geographic restraints and one-year duration of the noncompete agreement were reasonable. The restriction on “any” employment, no matter how important or menial, was not reasonable. Signing a new non-compete mid employment was deemed sufficient consideration where it reduced the length of the restriction from two years to one.
The Court determined that the plaintiff failed to prove that the defendant currently is involved in research and development in the area of lighting controls or that Acuity intends to pursue the same product lines in which the defendant obtained experience when working for the plaintiff. Currently, the defendant is responsible to design control layouts. He does not appear to be in a position to use his knowledge of the plaintiff’s business operations to harm the plaintiff. “Taken as a whole,” wrote the court, “the plaintiff has failed to demonstrate how the defendant, whose efforts for Acuity are both of a different character and deal with different products than those on which he worked while with the plaintiff, is in a position to cause irreparable harm.”
Finally, the court held that plaintiff failed to prove irreparable harm. Plaintiff needed to show it had or would likely suffer some economic harm beyond attorneys’ fees in prosecuting the action. Mere speculation of harm was not sufficient to justify a finding of irreparable harm.