Can an employer enjoin an employee from moving to a competitor by claiming that the confidential nature of his or her position will result in the “inevitable disclosure” of trade secrets to the competitor, without proof of any wrongdoing by the employee? The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York recently has answered by ruling that an employer cannot validly assert a claim seeking to enjoin its employee from moving to a competitor solely based upon the hypothesis that there would be "inevitable disclosure" of the former's trade secrets, without any proof of any wrongdoing or improper disclosure by the employee or the employee’s breach of a noncompete agreement. Janus et Cie v. Andrew Kahnke, No. R-CIV-7201-WHP (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 29, 2013).
In so ruling, Judge William H. Pauley III limited the parameters of the so-called "inevitable disclosure" of trade secrets doctrine under New York law. In New York, the doctrine has been considered only in connection with motions for preliminary injunctions (temporary relief) to block a former employee’s move to a competitor, where it is alleged that the former employee improperly disclosed trade secrets or committed some other wrongdoing.