My colleague Peter Steinmeyer published a post on the Trade Secrets and Noncompete Blog that will be of interest to many of our readers: “Chicago District Judge Issues Primer On Declaratory Judgment Actions Regarding The Enforceability Of Non-Compete Agreements.”
Following is an excerpt:
Last week, Chicago district judge Charles Kocoras dismissed a declaratory judgment action challenging the enforceability of a facially broad form non-compete agreement signed by all employees of the Jimmy John’s sandwich chain. Judge Kocoras held that the dispute was not judiciable because the plaintiffs lacked the requisite “reasonable apprehension” of litigation against them and because they failed to allege that they had actually engaged in conduct that would violate the non-compete. (Judge Kocoras’ memorandum opinion also addressed significant joint employer, franchisor/franchisee, and FLSA issues which are beyond the scope of this blog.)
As an initial matter, Judge Kocoras noted that “[t]he Seventh Circuit has not addressed whether a claim for declaratory relief is judiciable in the context of non-compete provisions.” Nevertheless, borrowing from an analogous Seventh Circuit decision involving a patent infringement/declaratory judgment action, Judge Kocoras held that in order to establish the existence of an actual case or controversy sufficient to support a claim for declaratory relief in the non-compete context, the plaintiffs must clear two threshold procedural hurdles. “First, the Plaintiffs must have a ‘reasonable apprehension’ that the Defendants are going to file a lawsuit against them for violating the Non-Competition Agreement. Second, the Plaintiffs must allege that they were preparing to engage or had engaged in conduct that would compete with the Defendants.”
Read the full blog post here.