Intuitive Surgical Inc. has recently accused Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Ethicon Inc. of what it has deemed as being “intricate legal gymnastics.” This came after Ethicon attempted to enforce a non-compete clause against its ex-employee in state court in Ohio, even though the relevant work was performed in California.
Three weeks after the employee in question—a sales representative—announced his departure from Ethicon to Intuitive, his former employer filed a lawsuit against him in the Court of Common Pleas in Hamilton County, Ohio for breach of contract and misappropriation of trade secrets. Ethicon filed the suit on Ohio where the law is much more favorable for employers looking to enforce non-compete clauses than it is in California.
Many employees are not aware of the far-reaching consequences that signing a non-compete clause may have for them. Should a former employer decide to attempt to enforce the terms of a noncompete clause, it can result in lengthy and costly litigation and denial of a job offer. Apparently, this case proves that one further risk of signing a non-compete provision is unintended litigation in a forum that is hundreds of miles from where you worked. One of the lessons from this case is to have counsel available who can advise you about signing a non-compete, and about accepting future employment which may be impacted by such a restrictive covenant.
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