In many instances, when a Florida non-compete dispute does go to court, the plaintiff will immediately seek a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction. In non-compete cases, a preliminary injunction can be used to bar the defendant from soliciting clients or engaging in a competing business. In some instances, courts issue sweeping injunctions that bar the defendant from competing against the plaintiff in a broad geographic territory. Courts can and do issue nationwide injunctions that effectively bar defendants from working for a competing venture anywhere in the country. Contrary to popular belief, the state of Florida aggressively enforces non-compete agreements and is one of the most aggressively pro-non-compete states in the country. For this reason, it is imperative to hire a lawyer who has significant experience in non-compete litigation.
Jonathan Pollard – Extensive Experience Litigating Non-Compete Cases
Jonathan Pollard is a trial lawyer and litigator based on Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He focuses his practice on litigating Florida non-compete and trade secret claims. Jonathan routinely prosecutes and defends non-compete claims. On the plaintiff side, he has represented numerous companies in industries including automotive, aerospace and and high end consumer goods. On the defense side, Jonathan has defended dozens of individuals accused of breaching non-compete agreements and theft of trade secrets. Often, these individuals are high ranking employees who have transitioned from one company to another under a non-compete agreement. In this context, Jonathan frequently defends both the individual accused of breaching the non-compete agreement and the new company accused of tortious interference.
Jonathan routinely represents doctors, corporate executives and other high level employees who are switching companies or who have started their own ventures. Jonathan also has extensive experience representing individuals who sold businesses and then reentered the market with a new venture while subject to various restrictive covenants. Beyond litigation, Jonathan advises employees, companies and business owners regarding restrictive covenant issues in connection with employment contracts, separation agreements, hiring decisions, employee poaching and raiding, the purchase or sale of business interests and the execution of commercial leases.
Jonathan has been interviewed about non-compete issues by reporters from INC Magazine, the BBC, The National Federation of Independent Business, The Tampa Bay Times, the Orlando Sentinel and others. He is licensed in all Florida federal and state courts and the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Jonathan has resolved dozens of non-compete disputes prior to a lawsuit being filed, litigated numerous non-compete cases in state and federal courts, and even prevailed in the Eleventh Circuit challenging an injunction on appeal. Jonathan routinely represents clients in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Fort Myers, Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville. Jonathan has extensive knowledge regarding the relevant statutes, governing case law and key strategies for both prosecuting and defending claims based on Florida non-compete agreements. His office can be reached at 954-332-2380. Representative matters include:
- Representing prominent wine and spirits executive in successfully defending against non-compete litigation brought by his former company in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida – Miami Division.
- Representing media company and principals in non-disclosure and trade secret litigation against industry rival in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida – Fort Myers Division.
- Representing prominent geriatrics doctor in defending non-compete claims and prosecuting counterclaims for unpaid bonus compensation in Broward County Circuit Court – Complex Litigation Division.
- Representing medical gas company in prosecuting a declaratory judgment action and defending non-compete counterclaims in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida – Tampa Division.
- Representing CFO of financial institution in prosecuting claim for declaratory judgment to hold non-compete agreement unenforceable in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida – Miami Division.
- Representing respiratory therapist in defending non-compete claims brought by his former practice in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court.
- Representing major bicycle chain in prosecuting non-compete claims against former regional manager in Collier County, Florida, Circuit Court.
- Representing aerospace metals company in prosecuting non-compete claims against former sales executive in Broward County, Florida Circuit Court.
- Representing financial adviser in non-compete dispute with former company and negotiating favorable out-of-court resolution.
- Representing software sales executive in non-compete dispute with former company and negotiating favorable out-of-court settlement.
- Representing medical device sales executives in non-compete dispute with their former company and negotiating favorable out-of-court resolution.
Florida Non-Compete Agreements – The Basics
In Florida, non-compete agreements are governed by Florida Statute 542.335. This statute lays out the boundaries of an acceptable non-compete agreement. Non-compete agreements must be reasonable in terms of duration and geographic scope. Reasonableness of geographic scope will depend largely on the industry. With respect to temporal limitations, Florida courts rarely uphold employee non-compete agreements that are greater than two years in duration. Additionally, a Florida non-compete agreement can only be used to protect a legitimate business interest. In Florida, legitimate business interests generally include trade secrets, confidential information, extraordinary investment in the employee, customer relationships or corporate goodwill. Most Florida non-compete cases involve disputes over confidential information and customer relationships. If there is no legitimate business interest at issue, the non-compete agreement may be invalid under Florida Law.
As your lawyer, Jonathan Pollard will review the relevant non-compete agreement, assess the relevant facts and determine the appropriate course of action.
On the defense side, this may entail negotiating a resolution with a former employer out of court. Many non-compete disputes can be settled on terms that suit all parties prior to embarking down a path of costly litigation. In other cases, where the facts are strongly in your favor, the best course of action may be to sue first for a declaratory judgment holding that the non-compete agreement is unenforceable under Florida law. If your former employer has sent you a cease and desist letter but the facts and law are on your side, then seeking a declaratory judgment may be your best option. Finally, in some instances, it may be necessary to defend a lawsuit filed by your former employer. The best strategy for fighting your non-compete agreement will depend on the specific facts and circumstances of your case.
On the plaintiff side, this may involve immediately moving for a temporary restraining order to prevent use of a company’s confidential information or solicitation of a company’s customers.
Legitimate Business Interests: Customer Relationships
A great deal of non-compete litigation focuses on one thing: Customers. In the non-compete context, customer relationships can constitute a legitimate business interest. In spite of the tremendous amount of litigation regarding customers, there is widespread confusion regarding when customer relationships are protectable.
Florida law protects substantial customer relationships. See Florida Statutes 542.335. The non-compete statute uses that specific phrase: substantial relationships. This is important because it signifies that the law does not protect all customer relationships. Instead, only substantial customer relationships are legally protectable. Although the statute uses this language, it does define what constitutes a substantial relationship. As a result, many Florida non-compete and non-solicitation cases involve the parties fighting over the definition of substantial customer relationship.
Although there is no clear definition, the relevant case law provides the following framework: Certain factors weigh in favor of finding substantial customer relationships. Substantial customer relationships are more likely to exist where:
The customers are private individuals as opposed to large companies
The customers’ identity or contact information is not publicly available
The customer relationship is an exclusive or near exclusive relationship
There is a long term contract for goods or services or the reasonable expectation of ongoing business.
The converse is equally true. Substantial customer relationships are less likely to exist where:
The customers are large companies
The customers’ identity or contact information is publicly available
The customer relationships are not exclusive or near exclusive and
There is no long-term contract or expectation of future business
In applying this framework, no one factor alone necessarily is dispositive. Instead, parties need to apply the various factors to the facts of their case and make the strongest arguments possible.
Learn More About Jonathan Pollard LLC – Non-Compete Lawyers
If you facing the prospect of litigation related to a Florida non-compete agreement, contact Fort Lauderdale attorney Jonathan Pollard to discuss your case at 954-332-2380.
To read about recent developments in non-compete litigation, visit Jonathan’s the non-compete blog, or check out these links:
A recent story from the National Federation of Independent Business quoting Jonathan on the danger of bad non-compete
A story from the Tampa Bay Times quoting Jonathan about a non-compete case pitting a prominent chef against her former restaurant.
Jonathan’s article about the intersection between non-compete and trademark, which was reprinted by the main newswire for business lawyers, Law360
Our page at JDSupra Business Advisor, which contains some of our recent articles and blog posts.
Or Check Out Some of Jonathan’s Video Discussions of Common Non-Compete Issues