Legal Question in Business Law in California


I am condidering leaving the company that I currently work for. I am trying to go into business for myself in the same field. If I have customer lists in my possesion can I use those if I go out on my own. The owner did not have me sign a non-competition agreement. Thank you

Asked on 2/03/06, 6:09 pm

3 Answers from Attorneys

Gregory Cartwright The Cartwright Law Group, APLC

Re: Competition

No. Regardless of whether or not you signed something, you may not misappropriate trade secrets and use them to compete. "Trade secrets" may under certain circumstances include a customer list.

For more information, please contact me via email.

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Answered on 2/03/06, 6:12 pm
Christopher M. Brainard, Esq. C. M. Brainard & Associates - (310) 266-4115

Re: Competition

Maybe, it depends on whether they have a known policy of confidentiality related to that information. If so, it is a trade secret and you shouldn't use the customer lists.

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Answered on 2/03/06, 8:17 pm
Edward Ardzrooni Law Offices of Edward Ardzrooni

Re: Competition


I have read the responses that Mr. Cartwright and Mr Brainerd made to your inquiry. I believe Mr. Cartwright is incorrect; and Mr. Brainerd's "maybe" is probably overly cautious.

California law has a policy of favoring and fostering competiton; and not overly restricting it. One way to foster competition among suppliers and give the customers the benefit of competition is to forbid restriction on trying to sell to customers unless the one trying to sell to them has signed a specific agreement not to do so. Without a signed agreement, your (about to be former) employer will have an extremely difficult time stopping you from doing business with the prospective customers you learned about while employed by it/him/her. Only if theer is some special and over-riding kind of consideration (and I cannot think of what it would be) could the former employer succeed in a lawsuit against you to try to prevent or stop your solicitation of those customers. The case of King v Pacific Vitamin pretty much established the rule I am telling you of here.

If you want to e-mail me or phone me to discuss the particular circumstances under which you learned of the names on the customer list in question, please feel free to do so.

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Answered on 2/04/06, 4:15 pm

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