Category Archives: Fair Competition News

Episode 12 of Fairly Competing is out! In this episode, Ben Fink, John Marsh, and I explore Wisk Aero LLC v. Archer Aviation Inc., an extremely well-reasoned decision offering an object lesson about preliminary injunctions in trade secret cases, highlighting that it’s no longer safe to assume you will get a preliminary injunction simply because a former employee downloaded 5,000 documents — even if he invokes the 5th Amendment.
“Non-compete agreements that are unreasonable as to temporal length, subject matter, and/or geographic scope will be found to violate both federal and state antitrust laws.”

That’s new — especially because it’s from Federal Trade Commission Commissioner Christine Wilson.

But, at the end, Commissioner Wilson observed, “The elected officials in each state are best situated to weigh the costs and benefits of non-competes and make decisions tailored to the unique circumstances in their jurisdictions. . . . A federal solution at this time is premature.”
Contracts containing restrictive covenants (noncompetes, nonsolicitation agreements, and the like) have been the province of state regulation for over 200 years. However, starting in 2015, the federal government has been stepping into the breach through proposed legislation (most recently two bills to ban all employee noncompetes and one to amend the FLSA to ban noncompetes for nonexempt workers), FTC review (starting with a workshop in January 2020), and an Executive Order (on July 9, 2021) “encouraging” the FTC to “curtail the unfair use of non-compete clauses . . . .” While that’s not news, what is news is that earlier this week (September 14, 2021), the FTC issued a public statement that — if it is as broad as it appears — seems to presume that the FTC has authority to regulate these types of contracts.
A recent paper, “The Ethics of Noncompete Clauses,” by University of Georgia Professor Harrison Frye, expands the policy discussion around noncompetes, and argues for a more thoughtful analysis. As Professor Frye details, seeing noncompetes “as solely advancing the interests of employers is myopic.”
If you’ve been following along with this series of posts, you know that there have been 66 noncompete bills pending in 25 states this year — plus three pending federal noncompete bills, D.C.’s new law to ban most noncompetes, and a bill to rein in D.C’s new law before it becomes effective (which is anticipated to be in April 2022). Today’s post discusses New Jersey’s proposed noncompete legislation.
On Thursday, July 15, 2021, United States District Court Judge Hillman issued what I believe is the first (readily available, anyway) non-dicta, substantive decision on the Massachusetts Noncompetition Agreement Act (the MNAA). Read more about Judge Hillman dismissal of a claim based on a nonconforming noncompete in KPM Analytics North America Corporation v. Blue Sun Scientific, LLC (C.A. No. 4:21-cv-10572-TSH).
The D.C. Council held two proceedings related to its recent noncompete ban last week. During both, at-Large Councilmember Elisa Silverman recommended pushing back the implementation date of the new law to April 1, 2022. During the hearing, the Council received wide-ranging testimony about a potential amendment: some objective, verifiable input and some partisan rhetoric; some spot on and some inaccurate. Now we wait.
As of Friday (July 16, 2021), we again have competing approaches to federal legislation proposing limits on noncompetes. In addition to the previously reintroduced Workforce Mobility Act, proposing an outright ban, Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) have now reintroduced the Freedom to Compete Act to ban noncompetes for most workers who are not exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.