Part VII of “The Restricting Covenant” Series: Blue Pencils and Brokers

By Lawrence J. Del Rossi – with special thanks to Summer Associate Joshua Lattimore for his assistance.

The start of the new school year, and kids around the country sharpening their pencils to learn in earnest (or at least I hope they are) sparked the topic for this seventh article in this Series. It discusses restrictive covenants and the “blue-pencil” doctrine – a tool many courts use to modify overly broad restraints on post-employment business activities.

Why “Blue” Pencils?

Being the legal geek that I am, I was curious about the origins of the blue-pencil doctrine, including how it got its name, how it applies in restrictive covenant cases, and which states have adopted it given that restrictive covenant law varies state by state.

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Part VI of “The Restricting Covenant” Series: Veterinarians and Vehicles

This sixth article in “The Restricting Covenant” Series discusses “mobile” veterinary medical practices, and some unique challenges to securing reasonable geographic restrictions for veterinarians employed in such practices.

Mobile vs. Brick and Mortar Locations

Like most domesticated animals, Maine Coon cats require periodic care and treatment from a veterinarian. For my first Maine Coon cat, I drove to the veterinarian’s office, which was a stand-alone fixed “brick and mortar” location. However, for my second cat, my veterinarian brought her “office” to me in a “vet-mobile,” which is a van-like, full-service veterinary hospital on wheels. This type of moving mobile practice can present some challenges when trying to construct and enforce reasonable and enforceable geographic restrictions for a non-compete or a non-solicit.

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Part V of “The Restricting Covenant” Series: Lawyers and Law

This is the fifth article in a continuing series, “The Restricting Covenant.” I originally thought this article would contain, at most, one or two sentences on the issue of lawyers and restrictive covenants.  Those two sentences would read something like, “A non-compete does not apply to lawyers.  The end.”  However, as with almost everything associated with restrictive covenants, things are not that straightforward.  There are some nuances on this topic worth exploring, particularly with respect to in-house lawyers employed at private companies in the United States.
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Part IV of “The Restricting Covenant” Series: Coaches and Colleges

This is the fourth article in a continuing series, “The Restricting Covenant.” It discusses the concept of protectable “playbooks” in restrictive covenant cases and the individuals that use them to compete.

Let’s Play Ball, but with Restrictions

This year’s NFL Super Bowl LI ended in spectacular fashion when the New England Patriots made an historic comeback to win in overtime against the Atlanta Falcons. After the game, there was much discussion about the Patriots’ unique “playbook,” their coach, and his game strategy for winning the Super Bowl for the fifth time in nine appearances.  This discussion led me to the question of whether a sports organization can restrict a coach from leaving one team and coaching another competing team.  Can it restrict a departing coach from recruiting athletes for a new team?  Can it demand the return of all “playbooks” or restrict the coach from using other records that he or she developed while coaching?

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Part III of “The Restricting Covenant” Series: Recipes and Restaurants

This is the third article in a continuing series, “The Restricting Covenant.” In restrictive covenant cases, a company’s trade secrets are sometimes referred to as its “secret sauce” or “secret recipe.”  The “secret formula” of Coca-Cola soda is an analogy used to help explain the uniqueness of a company’s protectable interest and the need to prevent unauthorized disclosure, misappropriation or unlawful competition.  This talk about secret sauces and recipes not only made me hungry, but it also relates to the subject of this article – restrictive covenants, trade secrets and the food and restaurant industry.

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Part II of “The Restricting Covenant” Series: Barbers and Beauty Shops

This is the second article in a continuing series, “The Restricting Covenant.” In this article, I discuss a topic that is near and dear to me – my hair and my long-time relationship with my barber.  I have used the same barber to cut my hair since high school, even after moving many miles away.  I sit in his chair, he cuts my hair with expert precision, and I am a satisfied customer.  This got me to think about one of the most basic reasons why employers want to impose non-compete and non-solicitation obligations on their employees – the value and strength of a long-term customer relationship.  Courts have long recognized that protecting customer relationships is a legitimate protectable business interest that can support the enforcement of a restrictive covenant if it satisfies standards of “reasonableness.”  So if my barber was to leave his current location, could his employer enforce a post-employment covenant that would prohibit him from cutting my hair?  Yikes!

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