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Is a Non-Compete Agreement Enforceable in California?

only to owners who own and are selling a “substantial interest” in the company; substantial in that its sale constitutes a sale of the business’s goodwill. This exception helps protect the goodwill and value of the business interest being purchased.

Similar rules apply to non-solicitation agreements. See that discussion here.

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RELEVANT STATUTES:

California Business and Professions Code Section 16600

Except as provided in this chapter, every contract by which anyone is restrained from engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind is to that extent void.

California Business and Professions Code Section 16601

Any person who sells the goodwill of a business, or any owner of a business entity selling or otherwise disposing of all of his or her ownership interest in the business entity, or any owner of a business entity that sells (a) all or substantially all of its operating assets together with the goodwill of the business entity, (b) all or substantially all of the operating assets of a division or a subsidiary of the business entity together with the goodwill of that division or subsidiary, or (c) all of the ownership interest of any subsidiary, may agree with the buyer to refrain from carrying on a similar business within a specified geographic area in which the business so sold, or that of the business entity, division, or subsidiary has been carried on, so long as the buyer, or any person deriving title to the goodwill or ownership interest from the buyer, carries on a like business therein.

For the purposes of this section, “business entity” means any partnership (including a limited partnership or a limited liability partnership), limited liability company (including a series of a limited liability company formed under the laws of a jurisdiction that recognizes such a series), or corporation.

For the purposes of this section, “owner of a business entity” means any partner, in the case of a business entity that is a partnership (including a limited partnership or a limited liability partnership), or any member, in the case of a business entity that is a limited liability company (including a series of a limited liability company formed under the laws of a jurisdiction that recognizes such a series), or any owner of capital stock, in the case of a business entity that is a corporation.

For the purposes of this section, “ownership interest” means a partnership interest, in the case of a business entity that is a partnership (including a limited partnership a limited liability partnership), a membership interest, in the case of a business entity that is a limited liability company (including a series of a limited liability company formed under the laws of a jurisdiction that recognizes such a series), or a capital stockholder, in the case of a business entity that is a corporation.

For the purposes of this section, “subsidiary” means any business entity over which the selling business entity has voting control or from which the selling business entity has a right to receive a majority share of distributions upon dissolution or other liquidation of the business entity (or has both voting control and a right to receive these distributions.)

California Business and Professions Code Section 16602

(a)Any partner may, upon or in anticipation of any of the circumstances described in subdivision (b), agree that he or she will not carry on a similar business within a specified geographic area where the partnership business has been transacted, so long as any other member of the partnership, or any person deriving title to the business or its goodwill from any such other member of the partnership, carries on a like business therein.

(b)Subdivision (a) applies to either of the following circumstances:

(1)A dissolution of the partnership.

(2)Dissociation of the partner from the partnership.

California Business and Professions Code Section 16602.5

Any member may, upon or in anticipation of a dissolution of, or the termination of his or her interest in, a limited liability company (including a series of a limited liability company formed under the laws of a jurisdiction recognizing such a series), agree that he or she or it will not carry on a similar business within a specified geographic area where the limited liability company business has been transacted, so long as any other member of the limited liability company, or any person deriving title to the business or its goodwill from any such other member of the limited liability company, carries on a like business therein.

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