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Wielding a Scalpel, Court Grants Injunction In Favor of Surgical Instrument Manufacturer

May 20, 2013

Headquartered in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Stryker Corporation is a manufacturer of surgical instruments, including image guided "navigation software and hardware" that enables surgeons to precisely insert implants or perform surgeries. In 2004, Stryker hired Defendant James Bruty as a sales representative, who, climbing the corporate ladder, ascended to Senior Director of Marketing. While at Stryker, Mr. Bruty signed a non-compete agreement, in which he agreed not to work for a competing organization in a position in which he could enhance a competing product. 

In December 2012, Mr. Bruty informed Stryker that he was resigning to accept a position with a web startup company. However, unbeknownst to Stryker, Mr. Bruty instead went to work for a competitor of Stryker (a company known as Blue Belt) as its Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Like Stryker, Blue Belt manufactures a "navigation system" for surgeons. Enforcing its non-compete agreement, Stryker secured a temporary restraining order against Mr. Bruty and, after expedited discovery, a preliminary injunction hearing was held.

Applying the well-established four factor test for granting injunctive relief, Judge Janet T. Neff found that Stryker established a likelihood of success on the merits, rejecting the argument that Blue Belt is not a competitor of Stryker. Next, Judge Neff found that Stryker may suffer irreparable harm, noting the difficulty of calculating damages for the potential loss of customer goodwill. Considering the potential harm to others, Judge Neff observed that any harm to Mr. Bruty was "foreseeable and avoidable," as he made "a calculated risk" by accepting employment with a competitor of Stryker. Finally, Judge Neff found that the public interest favored enforcing Stryker's reasonable non-compete agreement.

Balancing these factors, Judge Neff held that Stryker met its burden establishing that the requested injunctive relief was warranted and enjoined Mr. Bruty from competing against Stryker through his employment with Blue Belt.

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