Non-Competition & Injunctions

When you buy a business, it is common for the seller to agree to non-competition restrictions. In other words, the seller agrees not to compete against you for a certain period of time afterwards. These clauses are standard, but can be tricky to enforce, as shown in the recent decision in Belron Canada Incorporated v. TCG International Inc., 2009 BCSC 596 (CanLII)

In 2005, Belron bought the Speedy Auto Glass business in Canada from TCG for about $53 million, a deal which included the trade-marks, franchise agreements and proprietary glass repair technology.  For this price, Belron expected that TCG would refrain from competing against Belron in the auto-glass repair business in Canada for seven years.

When TCG launched a website at www.windshields.com that seemed to target Canadian customers, Belron sued for breach of the non-competition promises, and sought an injunction to restrain TCG from operating the site in Canada. In this case, the court wasn’t convinced that the injunction should be issued, so the case will go to trial for a final decision on whether the site constitutes a breach of the non-competition obligations.  The Belron decision applied the recent Supreme Court of Canada decision in Shafron v. KRG Insurance Brokers (Western) Inc., 2009 SCC 6, a case which debated the meaning of the phrase “Metropolitan City of Vancouver” in a non-competition clause. The Shafron decision also illustrates the importance of taking care in drafting clear non-competition clases.

The lessons for business?

  • In any business acquisition, it is important for both sides to get advice on non-competition, non-solicitation and non-interference clauses to ensure the clauses are clear and enforceable;
  • Where intellectual property assets are involved (as in the Belron case), special care must be taken to also review post-closing confidentiality and trade-secret obligations;
  • “Injunctive Relief” clauses, which state that one party is automatically entitled to an injunction, are not necessarily enforceable. Belron had such a clause in its contract with TCG, but the court still did not issue the injunction order.

Calgary – 09:00 MST  

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