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Non-Compete Agreement


A non-compete agreement is a legal contract between an employee and employer where the employee agrees not to enter into competition with the employer after they leave their job. This often includes not working for competitors or starting a similar business for a specified period of time. The purpose is to protect the employer’s proprietary information or trade secrets.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Non-Compete Agreement” is: “Nahn-Kuhm-Peet Uh-Gree-muhnt”

Key Takeaways

<ol><li>A Non-Compete Agreement is a legally binding contract that restricts an employee or contractor from entering into competition with the employer during and after the term of employment. This agreement protects the employer’s legitimate business interests, including trade secrets and customer relations.</li><li>Non-Compete Agreements generally specify the duration and geographical area where the employee is restricted from competing. The terms must be reasonable and not overly harsh or stifling, or else they may be deemed unenforceable if brought in front of a court.</li><li>The enforceability of Non-Compete Agreements varies widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Some regions, like California, are very employee-friendly and limit the enforceability of such agreements, whereas others, like New York, allow for more robust non-compete clauses. It’s critical to consult with local legal counsel when creating such agreements.</li></ol>


A non-compete agreement is crucial in business and finance as it protects companies against potential threats that arise when employees leave or are laid off. This legal contract restricts employees from working with competitors or starting a similar business for a specified period of time after leaving the company. They are designed to safeguard the company’s trade secrets, proprietary information, and investment in employee training. Non-compete agreements are particularly vital in sectors where information and innovations are prone to leakages, theft, and general misuse. Thus, they uphold business integrity, foster trust between the employer and the employee, and maintain the competitive edge of the company in the market.


The primary purpose of a Non-Compete Agreement is to protect a business’s proprietary information and prevent it from falling into the hands of competitors. Businesses often invest significantly in their proprietary techniques, client lists, marketing strategies, and other trade secrets, all of which contribute to their competitive advantage in the market. A Non-Compete Agreement is typically used when an employee leaves a company and the organization wishes to prevent them from using this proprietary knowledge in a way that could negatively impact their former employer.Non-Compete Agreements can also serve the secondary purpose of preventing potential damage caused by an employee leaving to start their own competing business, or joining a direct competitor in the same industry. Usually, the agreement specifies a certain geographic area and time period during which the employee cannot engage in direct competition with the former employer. This agreement helps maintain a company’s client base, reducing the risk of clients being swayed to a competitor by a former employee. Hence, a well-written Non-Compete Agreement can play a vital role in safeguarding a company’s valuable assets and market presence.


1. Google and Amazon: In 2014, Amazon sued a former employee who had accepted a job at Google, alleging breach of a non-compete agreement. The former Amazon employee had signed an agreement to not work at any company that might compete with Amazon within a certain period of leaving the company. This incident reached a settlement that involved an adjustment of the employee’s responsibilities at Google.2. Jimmy John’s and its Employees: Jimmy John’s, a fast food chain, became controversially known for its wide-ranging non-compete agreement for low wage employees. Their non-compete clause prevented any worker from working for two years at any establishment that makes more than 10% of its revenue from sandwiches and is located within three miles of any Jimmy John’s location. This was considered highly restrictive for low-skilled workers with limited mobility.3. Microsoft and Facebook: In a high-profiled case, Microsoft sued its former employee, Dr. Kai-Fu Lee, for violating a non-compete agreement when he moved to work for Google in 2005, heading operations in China. The case was prominent due to its high-profile nature involving tech giants. This led to increased awareness about non-compete agreements and their impact on mobility and innovation in the tech industry. This case was ultimately settled out of court.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a Non-Compete Agreement?

A Non-Compete Agreement is a legal contract established between two parties, typically an employer and employee or business partners, where one party agrees not to compete against the other either by starting a rival business or working for a competitor. It is often used to protect business interests and intellectual property.

Are Non-Compete Agreements legally enforceable?

The enforceability of Non-Compete Agreements varies by jurisdiction. Some countries or states enforce these agreements while others do not. It’s generally important that they are reasonable in geographic scope and duration to be considered enforceable.

What are the key elements of a Non-Compete Agreement?

Key components usually include the duration of the agreement, the geographical area where it applies, and the scope of what the party is restricted from doing e.g., working in a similar profession or industry.

Can an employer force me to sign a Non-Compete Agreement?

While an employer can certainly request you to sign a Non-Compete Agreement, the decision to sign is ultimately up to the employee. However, refusal to sign may have employment consequences depending on the company’s policies.

What is the typical duration of a Non-Compete Agreement?

The duration varies depending on the terms of the agreement. It is generally reasonable and justifiable to be in effect for the period the information remains confidential or for as long as the ex-employee could inflict severe damage on the former employer.

Can a Non-Compete Agreement be terminated?

Yes, a Non-Compete Agreement can be terminated, typically by mutual consent, expiration of the agreement, or if a court or tribunal finds it unenforceable.

What happens if a Non-Compete Agreement is violated?

If a Non-Compete Agreement is violated, the party who is harmed may seek legal remedies, such as a court injunction to stop the violating activity and/or monetary damages.

How is a Non-Compete Agreement different from a Non-Disclosure Agreement?

While both are used to protect a business’s interests, a Non-Compete Agreement prevents competition with the company, whereas a Non-Disclosure Agreement specifically prohibits the sharing of proprietary or confidential information.

Is a Non-Compete Agreement only applicable in employment context?

No. While often used in employment, Non-Compete Agreements can be used in various contexts, ranging from preventing business partners from starting a competing business to restricting vendors from providing similar services to competitors.

Related Finance Terms

  • Confidentiality Agreement
  • Restrictive Covenant
  • Trade Secret Protection
  • Employee Contract
  • Fair Competition

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