[kwlug-disc] non-compete agreement.

Chris Irwin chris at chrisirwin.ca
Thu Dec 31 10:05:29 EST 2009

On Thu, Dec 31, 2009 at 00:07, Chris Frey <cdfrey at foursquare.net> wrote:

> On Wed, Dec 30, 2009 at 11:27:05PM -0500, Joe Wennechuk wrote:
> >
> > Does anyone know anything about non-compete agreements? I would like
> > to get some help with a project, and I would like to protect myself and
> > my idea. Is there any forms, or legal software for linux that can help
> > with basic legal documents and such.
> Well, you did ask on an open source mailing list, so as (the?) resident
> contrarian, I'd encourage you to re-think it.  Non-compete agreements
> are an attempt to use the legal system to defeat capitalism in order
> to install a monopoly.

It depends on the scope of the non-compete. Saying "You can't administer
Linux systems" or "Program in C++" is silly, but if a company has a niche
product and they spend six months or a year bringing another person in,
training them, and teaching them all the ins-and-outs of dealing with these
niche customers, they want some assurance that they won't be directly
competing next week (and undercutting, with no need to recuperate research
costs). Granted a proper compensation package would solve most issues
straight away.

> By the time you release your product, you'll already have an advantage,
> and any non-compete agreement would just be unnecessary and unfair
> baggage on the people who helped you get there.  Better to inspire
> loyalty in your employees than tie up their futures with red tape.
> And for anyone about to sign a non-compete agreement, I hope you're getting
> some serious financial consideration for all that time you're agreeing to
> sit
> on your hands with your newly earned skills.

A previous place tried to pull the whole "We own everything you do, even off
company hours". Why they wanted to own the designs for the support guy's new
bathroom is anybodys guess. I crossed that section out, but it seems that
voided the offer..

I am under a non-compete with my current job, but what made me sign and
accept it is that it wasn't over the top. For a period of time extending six
months from the end of my employment I'm not allowed to compete in the exact
niche field of police charge management systems. All the actual server admin
skills that I actually use, Programming techniques I learn, and doodles I
make at lunch are all mine to use as I please.

If you do decide to go the non-compete route, make it as specific as
possible. The last thing you need is negative influence from an employee
that had to move away for some reason that suddenly finds they can't market
their skills. It may make it harder for you to find future replacement
employees as well -- I google'd the crap out of all the companies I was
interviewing with, and disgruntled ex-employees were strong warning signs.

Also note that Non-competes in some places (like California) are generally
non-enforceable due to those "we own everything" clauses being challenged,
and I could imagine a similar situation here if the issue was pushed (it may
already have been). I'd avoid making it too grandiose and rigid simply
because it will probably be unenforceable if challenged, thus wasting a lot
of time and money (I suppose that makes non-competes the DRM of the

Chris Irwin
<chris at chrisirwin.ca>
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