If a non-compete doesn't specify a time length, does that mean it is enforceable forever?

Asked almost 2 years ago - Hoboken, NJ

I live and work for a company in NJ. I know that the devil is usually in the details so seeking counsel will be the best way to prevent any legal action against me but I wanted to get a general feeling.

I read the employment agreement back to back a few times and there is only a paragraph about non-compete that says I can't compete in the same business as my employer but it doesn't specify a time length. I want to start a company but it isn't in the same space as them but somewhat related so I would rather seek counsel before dabbling into this than ending up in court or something.

So if it doesn't have a time length, does that mean it lasts forever? If you are in my area, please leave your contact info so I can reach out to you when I am ready to start. Thanks.

Attorney answers (5)

  1. Allan E Richardson

    Contributor Level 14


    Lawyers agree


    Answered . New Jersey looks on non-competes with disfavor, but will enforce them if they are reasonable as to geographic scope, duration and subject matter, that is, the type of business. A perpetual bar would be unreasonble and no court would enforce that. New Jersey, hoever, will blue pencil such an agreement and make a time limit tht is reasonable if the balance of the document is enforceable. For review of such a document, you don't need a nearby atorney. I routinely review contracts sent to me via email and discuss via phone. I charge for the consult by credit card.

    A response to a question posted on Avvo is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. It is... more
  2. Alix R. Rubin

    Contributor Level 13


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . I agree with the other attorneys who responded that a non-compete without any duration is unenforceable. However, as one of the other attorneys also noted, a judge may make it enforceable by assigning a reasonable time limit to it. The length of time that would be reasonable depends on your role in the company and the nature of the industry.

    You also could negotiate a "carve-out" for the company you would like to start, assuming it will not compete directly with your employer. If you would like to meet with a local attorney to discuss further, my contact information is in the Avvo directory and on my website, listed below.

    The information provided above is for general purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice or create an... more
  3. Christopher Edward Ezold


    Contributor Level 17


    Lawyers agree


    Answered . Before I respond to your inquiry, I must state that we have not spoken, I have not reviewed the relevant documents and facts, and I do not represent you. Therefore, my discussion below is not a legal opinion, but is informational only. Finally, my discussion applies only to issues to which Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey or Federal law apply, unless otherwise specified.

    That being said, noncompetition agreements are a type of restrictive covenant; among other requirements, they must be reasonable in time, geographic scope and what is essentially substantive scope (this changes slightly from state to state). Not having a time limit specified may make your noncompete unenforceable - no noncompete can be forever. Noncompete agreements are sometime drafted or used incorrectly, and may be invalid for other reasons as well - however, they are also frequently enforced. You should speak with an attorney ASAP to discuss if you believe you may end up competing against your employer.

    /Christopher E. Ezold/
    The Ezold Law Firm, P.C.
    One Belmont Avenue,
    Suite 501
    Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004
    (610) 660-5585

    Answered 8 months ago. Before I respond to your inquiry, I must state that we have not spoken, I have not reviewed... more
  4. Syrion Anthony Jack

    Contributor Level 4


    Lawyer agrees

    Answered . Non-competes are typically only given effect if their terms are reasonable. A non-compete with an unlimited duration may not be deemed reasonable and could be reformed by a court to a "reasonable duration" which protects the legitimate interest of the employer, imposes no undue hardship to the employee and is not injurious to the public.

    Get a free telephone consultation by calling 732-536-6161, you can ask to speak with me or any of the attoreys with my firm, Mashel Law, LLC, which is located in Marlboro, NJ.

    Mashel Law, LLC - The information provided here is only general information and may or may not reflect the most... more
  5. Robert John Murillo

    Contributor Level 20


    Lawyers agree


    Answered . No. While I can't speak to NJ law, the majority rule is that the noncompetition is limited to a reasonable scope, time, and geography.

    This answer is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice regarding your question and does not... more

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