Houston Business Attorneys to Stop Client Poaching
How to Stop Ex-Employees From Stealing Your Clients
Are you watching in alarm as a departing employee, a contractor, or competitor raids your client list? Texas law protects valuable trade secrets, including client lists, from misuse and misappropriation. These protections can give you legal grounds to defend your client lists from exploitation by former employees or competitors.
According to the Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act (TUTSA), a trade secret is information that has economic value because it is not generally known, and which a company has made reasonable efforts to keep secret. If your business has made reasonable efforts to protect your client lists, you can take legal action to stop former employees or competitors from going after your valuable client relationships.
At Hendershot Cowart P.C. we believe in providing our clients with legal strategies backed by over 100 years of combined experience and responsive representation when they need it most. Our team will quickly get up to speed on your matter and help you respond with swift, aggressive action to stop client poaching.
Take quick action to stop former employees from stealing your clients. Call our Houston business attorneys at (713) 909-7323 for a consultation.
What Is Client Poaching?
When an employee leaves the company – either to join a competitor or to start a competing business – they may try to encourage clients to join them at their new company. A former employee may also maliciously share protected client information with a competitor who then directly solicits your customers or clients.
This is called “client poaching” and endangers your proprietary information, profits, and client relationships.
Examples of client poaching can include:
- An employee intercepting calls from potential clients and soliciting them to do business separately.
- A vendor, supplier, or contractor soliciting mutual clients to provide competing products or services.
- An employee who leaves to start a competing operation and asks clients to follow him or her.
What may NOT be an example of client poaching?
- If the client list is easily ascertained through public sources, such as an internet search.
- If the former employee advertises in the local newspaper or social media and your clients respond.
- If a client follows your employee to a competing operation, but was not directly or actively solicited.
Is Client Poaching Illegal?
Client poaching is not outright illegal, but it can violate certain business laws, such as the Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act, and breach the terms of existing agreements, such as a non-compete or non-solicitation provision in the employment contract.
Can I Sue a Competitor for Poaching My Clients?
Yes. TUTSA allows businesses to take legal action when misappropriation occurs – or even if it has been threatened – provided that:
- Improper means were used to acquire the trade secret; and
- A trade secret was used or disclosed without consent.
Typically, a trade secret misappropriation case will consist of three general phases:
- Filing of a lawsuit and application for a temporary restraining order;
- Temporary injunction that stops the defendant from a specific act; and
- Litigation for the recovery of damages.
In addition to injunctive relief, businesses are also entitled to the recovery of any financial damages resulting from misappropriation. This includes actual losses and unjust enrichment, or royalties for the unauthorized use or disclosure of a trade secret. In cases where misappropriation was willful and malicious, exemplary damages may also be awarded against the defendant.
How Do I Prevent Competitors from Poaching My Clients?
The best way to prevent client poaching is to take reasonable measures to protect the secrecy of your client list. This will maintain its protection under Texas law.
What are reasonable measures to maintain the secrecy of your client list?
- Label client information as “proprietary and confidential”
- Limit access to client information on a “need-to-know basis”
- Employ physical and digital security, e.g., stored in locked cabinets or password-protected
- Ask employees, customers, independent contractors, and vendors with access to confidential client lists and information to sign a confidentiality or non-disclosure agreement (NDA).
- Use non-compete or non-solicitation agreements
Review more measures you can take in our blog article “Protecting Trade Secrets In Texas: How Do You Identify And Secure A Trade Secret?”
How Do I Defend against a Client Poaching Lawsuit?
The best way to defend against claims of client poaching is to demonstrate that you did not solicit clients improperly, or that you obtained the client list through public means.
It gets trickier if you are bound by a non-solicitation, non-compete agreement, or confidentiality agreement. However, these agreements are not always enforceable. If a non-compete or non-solicitation agreement is too broad or does not protect a legitimate business interest, Texas courts may revise the scope of the agreement or decline to enforce it altogether.
Our law firm has been reviewing, drafting, and enforcing non-compete and non-solicitation agreements since 1987. We can review the circumstances of your case and any underlying agreements to determine their enforceability and devise a strategy to achieve the possible outcome for you.
Entrust Your Client Poaching Case to Experienced Business Attorneys
Client lists are a valuable business asset. If a competitor or former employee is blatantly stealing your clients, rely on the help and counsel of experienced business attorneys at Hendershot Cowart P.C.
Our legal team has over 100 years of combined experience to put toward your case. We have a thorough understanding of state and federal law that govern proprietary trade secrets such as client lists, and we will work tirelessly to protect your interests. When you need dependable legal counsel backed by experience, choose Hendershot Cowart P.C.
Contact our Houston client poaching attorneys today for more information.
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