BoyarMiller Wins Appeal That Advances Texas Law on Employee Non-compete and Trade Secret Claims
HOUSTON (July 21, 2017) — On July 20, 2017, in ValvTechnologies, Inc. (VTI) v. Cooper Valves, LLC and Barry Don Hoeffner, the Fourteenth Court of Appeals reversed a district court’s temporary injunction in a case that advances Texas law on non-competition and trade secret claims. (Case No. 14-16-00879-CV).
VTI designs, manufactures and distributes various types of industrial valves worldwide. Cooper Valves operates a similar business and Hoeffner held a management position at VTI from 1997 until early 2000. Hoeffner rejoined VTI in 2001 until he left the company to work at Cooper Valves in 2016. VTI filed its lawsuit after Hoeffner left its employ and went to work for appellant Cooper Valves, LLC.
The trial court granted VTI’s request for a temporary injunction to enforce restrictive covenants contained in Hoeffner’s 1997 employment agreement, even though he had terminated his employment in 2000. The temporary injunction also included a lengthy, two-page definition of VTI’s “confidential information” that Cooper Valves and Hoeffner were prohibited from using.
The Court of Appeals reversed the challenged sections of the trial court’s temporary injunction and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings. In doing so, the Court of Appeals held that Hoeffner’s non-competition covenant expired in 2002, two years after he had left VTI and 14 years before the present litigation began, and was therefore unenforceable. The Court of Appeals also held that VTI’s vague, two-page definition of “confidential information” failed to give adequate notice of the specific acts prohibited and prevented the defendants from using information that the evidence conclusively established was not VTI confidential information or trade secrets.
Houston-based BoyarMiller represents Cooper Valves.
“Parties often disagree on the definition of confidential information,” said Chris Hanslik, BoyarMiller chairman, who argued the appeal on behalf of Cooper Valves. “We are pleased that the Court of Appeals maintained our position and agreed that VTI’s open-ended definition of ‘confidential and trade secret information’ was vague and in violation of Texas law’s specificity requirements. This was an important decision for our client and stands to be a guiding precedent for non-competition and misappropriation cases going forward.”
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