“Buried in Microsoft’s lawsuit against its former executive Kai-Fu Lee and Google is a legal doctrine that could make tech professionals shiver.
The high-profile dispute largely hinges on a noncompete agreement Lee signed with Microsoft. But in court filings, the software giant has also mentioned the theory of “inevitable disclosure,” which holds that in some circumstances people can’t avoid sharing or relying on trade secrets from their former employer when moving to a competitor.
Thanks to this increasingly popular legal argument, techies and other employees could be in for a surprise when they try to switch companies. In states that accept the inevitable disclosure concept, employers can sue defectors even if they’ve signed only a confidentiality agreement–or even if they haven’t signed an employment agreement at all, said Robin Meadow, an attorney with the firm Greines Martin Stein & Richland.”
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