The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Appellate District of Texas at Texarkana issued an opinion on November 24, 2020 in Titan Oil & Gas Consultants LLC v. David W. Willis and RIGUP, Inc., a case addressing application of a non-competition provision in the independent contractor context in the oil and gas drilling and production industry in the Permian Basin and elsewhere. Titan addressed non-competition claims of interest both to those focused on the Texas arcana of the state’s restrictive covenant statute and jurisprudence and to those more generally interested in applying restrictive covenants to independent contractors.  Each area
Continue Reading Non-Compete Boilerplate Loses Steam Where Independent Contractor Receives Call and Confidences Directly

When Massachusetts enacted the Massachusetts Noncompetition Agreement Act (“MNCA”) in mid-2018, some commentators suggested that the statute reflected an anti-employer tilt in public policy. But, we advised  that sophisticated employers advised by knowledgeable counsel could navigate the restrictions set forth in the MNCA.  As reported here, the May 2019 decision from the District of Massachusetts in Nuvasive Inc. v. Day and Richard, 19-cv-10800 (D. Mass. May 29, 2019) (Nuvasive I) supported our initial reading of the MNCA.   The First Circuit’s April 8, 2020 decision in Nuvasive, Inc. v. Day, No. 19-1611 (1st Cir. April 8,
Continue Reading First Circuit: Massachusetts Employee Must Abide by a Restrictive Covenant Governed by a Delaware Choice of Law Clause – the More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same, Part II

When Massachusetts enacted the Massachusetts Noncompetition Agreement Act (“MNCA”) in mid-2018, many suggested then and thereafter that such statutes reflected an anti-employer tilt in public policy. But we advised at that time that the MNCA in fact appeared to present manageable options for sophisticated employers advised by knowledgeable counsel.   A recent federal court decision from the District of Massachusetts in Nuvasive Inc. v. Day and Richard, 19-cv-10800 (D. Mass. May 29, 2019), supports our earlier read, and belies the notion that Massachusetts courts see the Commonwealth’s policy requiring application of its own law to pre-existing non-competes.  So despite
Continue Reading The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same: Court Holds That All Those New Non-Compete Rules Under Massachusetts Act Do Not Supplant Old Public Policies Applicable to Pre-Existing Agreements

The State of Utah on March 22, 2019 returned to the topic of non-competes for the third time in three years. It had passed that statute in 2016 (as we noted), and then amended in 2018 (as we also discussed here earlier), and now is at it again, by amending it once more. Maybe they are hoping that the third time’s a charm, as they say.

It seems that, like Goldilocks, the broadcasting industry found the original 2016 statutory bed to be a little too hard for it to sleep in. As we discussed
Continue Reading Utah Hopes That Third Time’s a Charm for Non-Compete Statute

On August 10, 2018, the Governor of Massachusetts signed “An Act relative to the judicial enforcement of noncompetition agreements,” otherwise known as The Massachusetts Noncompetition Agreement Act, §24L of Chapter 149 of the Massachusetts General Laws. (That bill was part of a large budget bill, H. 4868, available here; the text of the provisions relevant here at pages 56-62 of the bill as linked). The Act limited non-competition provisions in most employment contexts to one-year and required employers wishing to enforce such a one-year period to pay their ex-employees for the time that such employees are sidelined. The Act
Continue Reading Massachusetts Establishes Garden-Leave-Type Non-Compete Requirements and Limits

Jim Flynn, an attorney in Epstein Becker & Green’s Newark, New Jersey office, recently addressed in separate forums the delicate balance that trade secret owners and their counsel must strike when litigating over trade secrets and confidential information. First, Mr. Flynn moderated a panel discussion among trade secret litigators (including one from Beijing) at the American Intellectual Property Law Association (“AIPLA”) Spring Meeting in Seattle, Washington. His May 16th AIPLA session was entitled “A Litigator’s Guide to Protecting Trade Secrets During Litigation,” and program materials included his written paper on the Catch-22 aspects noted above. Additionally, Mr. Flynn published
Continue Reading EBG Attorney Addresses Catch-22 of Litigating Trade Secret Cases

Two western states, Utah and Idaho, have recently passed or amended their statutes dealing with post-employment restrictions on competition.  This continues a national trend in which new state law in this area is increasingly the product of legislative action rather than judicial interpretation.  Thus, even if an employer has no current presence in these states, it is worth one’s time to understand these changes because they could soon be coming your way.

In Utah, the legislature amended the two-year old Post-Employment Restrictions Act (which we had written about before) to limit the enforcement of non-compete agreements against employees in
Continue Reading Utah and Idaho Continue Trend of State Legislatures’ Focusing on Non-Competes

In managing workforces, particularly when addressing employee turnover, employers often find themselves facing issues regarding how best to safeguard their confidential business information and how to protect their relationships with clients and employees. In recent years, the legal landscape underlying these issues has been evolving, as lawmakers and judges grapple with the tension in these matters between protection and free competition.

In this Take 5, we examine recent developments, both in the courts and legislative bodies, concerning trade secrets and employee mobility:

  1. Antitrust Action Against No-Poaching Agreements: The Trump Administration Continues Obama Policy
  2. Drafting “Garden Leave” Clauses in Employment


Continue Reading Take 5 Newsletter: Keeping Pace in the Fast-Moving World of Trade Secrets and Employee Mobility

In 2017, there were several cases worth noting under the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”). These cases addressed (i) time periods covered by the DTSA, (ii) pleading requirements under the DTSA, and (iii) standards for obtaining ex parte seizure orders under the DTSA. We will discuss these three issues in turn.

Timing

The DTSA became effective May 11, 2016, which raised the questions of if, when, and how it might apply to pre-May 11, 2016, conduct. Simply stated, defendants may have a “timing defense” when the alleged misappropriation occurred before the DTSA’s enactment (May 11, 2016). See Cave Consulting
Continue Reading Defend Trade Secrets Act Developments in 2017

Before the Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”) became federal law in the spring of 2016, Supreme Court watchers would likely care little about prospective justices’ approach to trade secrets matters.  Such matters were the province of state law, and the phrase “trade secret” might be avoided, even in passing, in the opinions of the Supreme Court for entire terms or more.  But with DTSA cases being reported with increasing regularity, differences in interpretation are beginning to emerge.  Supreme Court attention may follow.

Because DTSA says that “misappropriation of a trade secret” can involve unlawful acquisition of a trade secret, or improper disclosure of a trade secret, or unauthorized use of a trade secret, the impact of the statute’s May 11, 2016 “effective date” has been the subject of some debate.  For instance, should the act apply to a trade secret unlawfully acquired on May 10, 2016 but improperly used or disclosed on May 12, 2016 or thereafter?  Likewise, what if a trade secret unlawfully acquired and used before May 10, 2016 is used again after May 11, 2016?  These issues have come up in cases in March and January 2017 in the Northern District of California, in March 2017 in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and earlier in the Middle District of Florida.  The answers and analysis found in these opinions is not always entirely consistent, which suggests that this issue under DTSA  as well as others will continue to be litigated.

Should differences arise between circuits, the Supreme Court might be called upon to interpret the reach of DTSA. In that vein, one might wish to look at the Court’s newest member, Neil Gorsuch, and his opinions while a 10th Circuit judge in Storagecraft Technology Corp. v. Kirby, 744 F. 3d 1183 (10th Circuit 2014), and in Russo v. Ballard Medical Products, 550 F. 3d 1004 (10th Circuit 2008). Each reveal interesting elements of Judge — now Justice — Gorsuch’s approach to trade secrets matters.

Storagecraft proves interesting opinion on several levels.  That case involved the Utah trade secrets act in a case coming to the 10th Circuit after being brought in the federal district court as a matter of diversity jurisdiction.  In addressing one of the appealing defendant’s arguments, the Gorsuch opinion rejected the notion that one need show that a defendant facilitated another’s commercial gain to recover under the statute:


Continue Reading Court’s Newest Member Has Trade Secret Protecting Track Record