A noncompete agreement typically protects a business that discloses confidential information or business practices to another business or individual from having that information later used against it in competition. Such agreements are generally enforceable and even standard in a wide variety of industries. However, just because a business can prove that someone violated a noncompete agreement does not mean that the business can prevent that person or entity from continuing to do so. In EBN Enterprises, Inc. v. CL Creative Images, Inc., the Northern District of Illinois explains the additional hoops that a party to a noncompete agreement must jump through in order to get an injunction preventing another party from continuing to breach the agreement.
Defendants owned a hair salon and operated it under a franchise agreement with Plaintiffs, the owners of the “Fantastic Sams” salon trade name and operation. The 10-year agreement allegtedly allowed Defendants to use the Fantastic Sams name and trademarks for Defendants’ salon. In return, Defendants agreed to pay a weekly royalty fee and a portion of certain costs. Defendants also agreed that they would not have any connection with a hair care business located within five miles of any Fantastic Sams salon for two years following the agreement’s termination.
The parties allegedly repudiated the agreement shortly before its termination and Defendants continued to operate a salon – now under the name “Corda’s Hair Salon” – at the same location. Plaintiffs filed suit, seeking an injunction preventing Defendants from operating a hair salon within five miles of the Fantastic Sams salon that Defendants previously operated. In order to obtain such relief, the court stated that Plaintiffs must show that: 1) they will suffer irreparable harm without a preliminary injunction; 2) traditional legal remedies will not adequately remedy the harm; and 3) their claim has some likelihood of success on the merits.
Plaintiffs made the requisite showing of success on the merits – a “greater than negligible chance of winning,” according to the court – because Defendants’ continued operation of their salon is in an alleged breach of the franchise agreement. Nevertheless, Plaintiffs failed to show that they will be irreparably harmed unless Defendants are enjoined from operating the salon. The court declined to presume such harm based solely on the breach of the agreement. Instead, it found that Plaintiffs failed to show that the injunction was necessary to prevent use of Plaintiffs’ confidential information, unfair appropriation of other proprietary or unique aspects of Plaintiffs’ business or consumer confusion or to preserve any relationships Plaintiffs would have with customers. Accordingly, the court denied Plaintiffs’ injunction request.
At Lubin Austermuehle, our Chicago business attorneys represent both individuals and businesses in noncompete agreement litigation. We are pleased to assist clients throughout the Chicagoland area, DuPage County and other areas throughout Illinois. We also assist clients in Indiana and Wisconsin. To contact a commercial litigation attorney at our firm, contact our law office in Oakbrook Terrace or Chicago, Illinois. To contact a lawyer at our firm, call 630-333-0333 or (630) 333-0333. You may also contact us by e-mail.
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