Unfair competition is an area of law that commercial litigation lawyers are often hired for. Unfair competition can apply in many industries, and it is designed to prevent employees from quitting their jobs and starting new businesses that harm the companies they left. If you recently started a new company after leaving your job and are being sued by your former employer, you may need to hire a lawyer that specializes in commercial litigation. Here are three factors that may affect your case, and your lawyer will discuss these with you.
Was There A Non-Compete Agreement?
A non-compete agreement is something an employer can have an employee sign at the start of employment or at some point afterwards. These agreements have several purposes, including:
- To prevent the employee from working in a similar business if he or she stops working at this company.
- To prevent the employee from starting a similar business after employment ends
These agreements typically have time frames for these rules, and they may also have distance requirements. For example, a non-compete agreement may state that you are not allowed to open a similar business within 50 miles of the company's location.
Companies require these to protect their businesses. If employees leave and start similar businesses right down the street, it could harm the sales and profitability of the original company.
While every state has different rules about non-compete agreements, they are often unenforceable. Your lawyer can look over the non-compete agreement you signed to determine its validity.
There are several factors your lawyer will look at while reading this over, and one of these things is the time frame. Non-compete agreements can contain time frames, but they must be reasonable. For example, a one-year time frame might be acceptable, while a five-year time frame might not.
Will The Agreement Force You Into Poverty?
A second thing that matters is how this agreement will affect you and your ability to earn a living. If the skill you used at your job was very precise and limited, you may have to get a job where you can use this particular skill. If you are prohibited from this, you might end up without a job. This could force you into poverty, and you might lose everything you own.
For example, if you are a dentist and are not allowed to start your own practice or work for another dental practice, it could ruin your career. The only option you might have if the non-compete agreement was enforceable would be to move to a new city or state. This would not be fair to you, which is one of the reasons a court may find that the agreement you signed is not enforceable.
Are You Infringing On Trademarks Or Trade Secrets?
The final factor your attorney will consider is whether you are using any of your ex-employer's trade secrets or trademarks. Even if the non-compete agreement is unenforceable, you will not be able to infringe on any types of intellectual property rights of the employer.
This not only includes the company's trademarks and copyrights, but it also includes any trade secrets you learned while you worked there. In addition, you do not have the right to steal customer lists, vendors, or other information from your ex-employer and use it for your advantage.
Using any of these things would constitute unfair competition, and this could make it hard for you to win your case.
If you are being sued for unfair competition, you will need a lawyer to help you fight this. You should look for a lawyer that offers services in commercial litigation, and he or she will help you understand your rights. You can also visit sites like http://wfactorlaw.com to learn more.