Starzyk & Associates, P.C. handles a wide variety of commercial litigation cases representing employees, small businesses and large corporations in matters involving non-competition agreements, misappropriation of confidential information, breach of contract and fraud. The firm has achieved successful results in obtaining emergency protection for its clients' trade secrets and livelihood.
I. NON-COMPETE AGREEMENTS
A non-compete agreement is generally an employment agreement whose purpose is to limit an employee's post-employment activities and protect an employer's proprietary information and trade secrets. Non-compete agreements aim to prevent an employee from working in the area of the employer's trade or industry, and to prevent a former employee from soliciting an employer's customers.
In the past, these agreements were difficult for an employer to enforce. However, recent changes in the law have made these agreements much easier to enforce. Courts now look more toward the scope of the agreement to determine if its restrictions are reasonable rather than whether they are generally enforceable or not.
The non-compete agreement must contain limitations as to time, geographical area, and scope of the activity to be restrained that are reasonable and do not impose a greater restraint than is necessary to protect the goodwill or other business interest of the employer. However, these limitations vary from employer to employer and even from employee to employee depending on the nature of the work, the duration of the employee's employment, and the area the employment restriction is to encompass.
Non-compete agreements are a great concern to both the employer and the employee. Considering recent changes in the law concerning non-compete agreements, using a form from a different state or one that is outdated could affect the enforceability of the agreement. Starzyk & Associates, P.C. has years of experience in negotiating, drafting, and litigating non-compete agreements on behalf of our clients. Furthermore, since our firm concentrates solely in employment law practice, we keep up to date on recent changes in employment law that can affect your non-compete agreements.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
What is a covenant not to compete?
A covenant not to compete is also known as a non-compete agreement. It is a promise by an employee not to compete with his or her employer for a specified time, in a particular place or in a particular way.
Are non-compete agreements enforceable?
Generally speaking, yes. Courts will enforce non-competition agreements as long as the duration, geographical area and scope of activity are not overly broad
Are non-compete agreements valid if signed after employment has already started?
Yes. Just because a non-compete was signed after an employee already began working for a company will not affect its enforceability.
If the non-compete agreement is too broad as to the geographical area, can it still be enforced?
Texas courts have the ability to re-draft non-compete agreements so that they are no broader than what is enforceable. Therefore, an overly broad geographical area will not necessarily void an otherwise valid non-compete agreement.
What happens if an employee attempts to compete despite a valid agreement?
An employer may file a lawsuit against the employee. This lawsuit could enjoin the employee from competing either on his or her own or for a competitor as well as damages to the employer for the breach of the non-compete agreement. The injunction may prevent the employee from competing during the course of the litigation.
II. TRADE SECRETS AND CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION
In a competitive marketplace, trade secrets can mean the difference between rising profits and going out of business. Employers who wish to maintain their competitive edge often utilize non-solicitation, non-competition, and non-disclosure agreements to protect their confidential information. These legal contracts aim to preserve the secrecy of company information.
At Starzyk & Associates, P.C., our attorneys have years of experience assisting companies to protect their trade secrets. We concentrate in employment law, keep up to date on recent changes in the legal landscape, and are flexible in crafting legal documents to fit our clients' needs.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
What is a trade secret?
A trade secret can be any secret formula, pattern, device, or compilation of information used in a company's trade or business that gives the holder of the information a competitive advantage over those who do not know or use it. Examples include business methods, customer information and lists, manufacturing processes and procedures, pricing data, product design, vendor lists, and technical data. To be legally protectable, the trade secret must not be generally known to the public and efforts must be made to maintain secrecy.
Are trade secrets patents?
No. This is a common misconception. Unlike patents, trade secrets do not have to be registered and may be maintained indefinitely as long as the secret is never revealed to the public. However, trade secrets are more difficult to enforce than a patent and protection may be lost if the information becomes known to the public.
How do I protect my trade secrets?
Companies wishing to preserve their confidential information often turn to a number of legal contracts. One important method is a non-disclosure agreement. The aim of a non-disclosure agreement is to create a confidential relationship between two parties and to restrict the disclosure of confidential information or proprietary knowledge under specific circumstances.
Is a non-disclosure agreement the same as a non-competition agreement?
No. Non-competition agreements seek to prevent an employee from competing with his or her employer for a specified time, in a particular place or in a particular way. A non-disclosure agreement prevents disclosure of trade secrets and confidential information acquired by a former employee.
Courts will generally enforce non-competition agreements as long as the duration, geographical area and scope of activity are not overly broad. Non-disclosure agreements are easier to enforce under Texas law because they do not prevent the employee from making use of the general experience he acquired during employment.
What happens if an employee breaches his non-disclosure agreement?
An employer may file a lawsuit against the employee. This lawsuit could enjoin the employee from future disclosures of confidential information. The employer could also seek damages for the breach of the non-disclosure agreement.
III. BREACH OF CONTRACT
Contracts are vital to every business. Not only do they provide predictability, they also establish trust, structure, and goodwill between business partners. Unfortunately, the terms and obligations of contracts are frequently disputed. Starzyk & Associates, P.C. has spent years assisting companies navigate complex disputes, including through litigation, if necessary.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
How do you prove breach of contract?
To prove breach of contract in Texas, a person must demonstrate a valid contract exists, that he performed under the agreement, the other party breached the agreement, and that damages resulted because of the breach.
What damages are available to remedy breach-of-contract claims?
Parties harmed by breach of contract have several remedies. Generally, a party will seek to recover damages for what it expected to receive as a result of the contract, money spent in reliance upon the contract, restitution of any property, or specific performance - requiring the other party to fulfill the terms of the contract.
What is the statute of limitations for a breach-of-contract claim?
The limitations period is generally four years.