California Labor &
Employment Law Blog

Oct. 9 2012


Topics: Court Decisions, Non-Compete and Trade Secrets

California trade secret cases are often a battle over whether an employer's confidentiality agreement protects information that is trade secret or an unenforceable noncompetition agreement.   In a case of first impression, the Court of Appeal in Wanke Industrial Commerical Residential, Inc. v. Sup. Court held that an injunction arising from a settlement agreement between Plaintiff Wanke (formerly the employer of the individual defendants) and the individual defendants and their competing company is enforceable to bar defendants from soliciting Wanke's customers. 

In Wanke, Wanke sued its former employees and their new company under CalUTSA and other claims after the former employees started a new business and pursued Wanke's customers.  As part of the settlement, the parties agreed to enter into a Stipulated Injunction that was entered as an order of the Court.  The Stipulated Injunction barred Defendants from contacting or soliciting any Wanke client identified on an exhibit for 18 months.  When caught in the act, the Defendants claimed that Court could not enforce their agreement as it violated California's Public Policy under Business & Professions Code section 16600 barring most covenants not to compete.  And, the trial court agreed and held that the client list would not have, at trial, constituted a trade secret and, therefore, would not enforce the injunction.   However, the Court of Appeal reversed, not only taking issue with the Defendants' reneging on their agreement by claiming it should not be enforced but finding that on its face, the injunction order protected trade secrets and concluding that enforcement of such an injunction is necessary to protect trade secrets.

While the opinion arises out of complicated factual and procedural background, it is helpful for parties engaged in CalUTSA claims to know that trial courts should enter and enforce Stipulated Injunctions preventing former-employees and their companies from competing against the former employer as part of a valid settlement.  Further, counsel involved in settlement negotiations of trade secret cases should consult with Wanke for specific language to restrain competition that a Court has held is enforceable as a valid injunction under CalUTSA.

About CDF

For over 20 years, CDF has distinguished itself as one of the top employment, labor and immigration firms in California, representing employers in single-plaintiff and class action lawsuits and advising employers on related legal compliance and risk avoidance. We cover the state, with five locations from Sacramento to San Diego.

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About the Editor

Robin Largent has a regular presence in California state and federal courts and has been lead defense counsel and appellate counsel for large and small California employers in litigation (and arbitration) ranging from individual discrimination and harassment claims to complex wage and hour representative and class actions. She also leads the firm’s appellate practice, having substantial experience and success handling appeals, writ petitions, and amicus briefs in both state and federal court on issues such as class certification (particularly in the wage and hour arena), manageability and due process concerns associated with class action trials, exempt/non-exempt misclassification issues, meal and rest break compliance, trade secret/unfair competition matters, and the scope of federal court jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act.
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