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Ask HN: Is a Non-Compete Contract enforceable for a non-competitor?
5 points by microDude 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 7 comments
Hello, back in 2011 I signed a Non-Compete agreement with my employer (I was a doe eyed fresh graduate engineer). I was given the contract on my first day at the job and had little choice but to sign it.

Now, I have accepted a job at a customer of my old employer. The new employer does not compete or sell/offer services similar to the old employer (I do factory automation software, the new employer makes semiconductor chips).

My old employer seems to be pushing the angle that I am some how stealing business. However, the customer will still be buying licenses from my old employer. I will hire a lawyer in Portland Oregon to help (any recommendations?) if things get nasty. But, does anybody have some experience? I am losing a ton of sleep. Thank you

I worked in online bookmaking where there is a massive amount of poaching. I would let your new employer know of this and let their legal team look after it for you (saves you the $ and the hassle.) That's what everyone who swapped companies in the industry did, was only an issue with upper management.

I am just an engineer. My final title was "automation engineer". Not in upper management. Thank you.

Good luck! By an issue I meant the former company took them to court and was ordered to pay a few hundred grand

Did you check if there was a term period for the Non Compete ? They should not be forever unless your employer tried to screw you. 2 years is the max I have seen for junior level employees.

5 years term. It also bars me from talking to customers that have expired 2 years before the end of my employment.

I'm not a lawyer, nor an expert in this but I have seen this happening. In my opinion it all comes down to what the non-competition clause states in the contract. I've seen cases where it was as broad as "in the automation domain" and also very specific like "in the domain of EDA tools development". In the first case the judge might not even consider the clause because it is clearly a treat to your freedom (you cannot do anything else). In the second case you are pretty much tied to it.

Be careful because if you were working for an EDA company the defense can state that the semiconductor company (customer) hired you to develop the same automation tools internally (potentially saving them money in the future), and that's competition.

PS: I have a friend who recently got hired on a direct competitor of our company (EDA x EDA). Apparently he (and his lawyer) proved to the judge that he is working in a project that is completely different from what my company does, so far so good for him. But since the clause only works for a definite period time (1 year), he can potentially change to do whatever he wants after this time. So it also depends on how good your lawyer is.... Also, the company that hired him knew of the issue and is supporting him with its own lawyers.

This was very helpful information, thank you. I believe the new employer wants me because I have done a "lot" of phone support for them the past 2 years and have kept their plant running at the "wee hours" of the night on weekends. I have also done software extension work for them. The plant only has one automation engineer currently, and he really needs help managing everything.

Basically, if I can not do automation work for them they might not be interested in me.

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