Aerotek, Inc. v. Johnson Group Staffing Company, Inc. (UNPUBLISHED)

Summarized by:

  • Court: Intellectual Property Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Trade Secrets
  • Date Filed: 07-30-2013
  • Case #: C067652
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Court of Appeal of California, Third Appellate District
  • LexisNexis Citation: 2013 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 5424
  • Westlaw Citation: 2013 WL 3947750
  • Full Text Opinion

Announcing new employment to a former employer's customers is not an impermissible solicitation in violation of the UTSA unless the former employee asks for the customer's business.

Opinion (Hoch): In 2007, Aerotek Inc. (“Aerotek”) brought suit against their former employee Michael Ponce (“Ponce”), and Ponce’s new employer Johnson Group Staffing Company, Inc. (“Johnson Group”). Soon after starting at Johnson Group, Ponce spoke with several Aerotek clients to announce his new place of work. Aerotek claimed that Ponce had solicited fifteen of its clients, broken his non-disclosure agreement, and that Ponce’s actions were violations of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“USTA”) as a matter of law. The jury found for Ponce and Johnson Group on all claims. Aerotek appealed to the Court of Appeal of California, asserting that the trial court had erroneously denied their motion for directed verdict. Aerotek’s brief stated that undisputed evidence presented at trial established Ponce and Johnson Group had solicited Aerotek customers. The Court of Appeals disagreed. The Court found that Aerotek failed to acknowledge significant contradicting evidence as required by the applicable rules of civil procedure. Several of the clients that testified at trial stated that Ponce never asked for their business, but only announced his new employment. The Court held that announcing new employment to a former employer’s customers is not solicitation unless the former employee asks for the customer’s business under the totality of the circumstances. Accordingly, the Court AFFIRMED the jury verdict.

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