I Signed a Non-Compete Form. What Now?

By | March 2, 2012

When you’re hired by a company with access to a lot of privileged information, it can be an exciting time. You’re ready to learn from their experts, develop your own skills for your career, and generally make yourself a greater asset to other companies in the future. You can be so excited at this point that you nearly overlook all of the details in a non-compete form, though you still sign the contract of your own free will.

Suddenly you find yourself wanting to quit the company and start your own business using the knowledge you’ve learned. The problem? The agreement you just signed with the previous company prevents exactly that. Suddenly, you don’t feel so excited about your career anymore – you feel trapped. What can you do to get out of this situation and resolve the problem? The answer comes in knowing the true nature of non-compete forms.

As with most legal issues stemming from a contract problem, you’ll first want to get a copy of the non-compete form – if you don’t already have one – and fully review its language. Is the language about branching off on your own ironclad? Are there any potential “outs” that would give you carte blanche to do so? For example, some contracts will simply stipulate that you wait six months after leaving a company – you may simply need to find a way to feed yourself for those six months before you fully branch off.

Of course, not every non-compete form will have that kind of clause in it. If that’s the case, and you really need to get out of this form, you might have to work with the other party directly in order to come to some sort of mutual agreement.

For other people, signing a non-compete form is not a big deal, especially if the non-compete form has an expiration date on it. They can simply work for the company that hired them and continue their career development in that way. It may never be their wish to ever compete with their existing company in any way.

But if you do need to fight a non-compete form in order to branch out on your own – and you have few other options –  you may simply find that non-compete forms are difficult to enforce in a court of law. For example, if you do not use any information you learned at your old job to give another company an unfair advantage, you’ll often find that the former company does not have very solid grounds to get a court to enforce the contract. After all, the point of the non-compete form is to prevent this kind of unfair advantage. If that unfair advantage doesn’t exist, it could be argued that the non-compete form has been honored.

Whatever you sign, be sure that you know what you’re getting into before you sign it. A company will tell you that “this is just a simple form,” but you need to make sure you understand its complexities if you plan on signing and then honoring it.

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