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Whyte v. Schlage Lock Co. - 101 Cal. App. 4th 1443, 125 Cal. Rptr. 2d 277 (2002)


Whether the trial court grants or denies a preliminary injunction, the appellate court does not resolve conflicts in the evidence, reweigh the evidence, or assess the credibility of witnesses. The trial court is the judge of the credibility of the affidavits filed in support of the application for preliminary injunction and it is that court's province to resolve conflicts. Thus, even when presented by declaration, if the evidence on the application is in conflict, the appellate court must interpret the facts in the light most favorable to the prevailing party and indulge in all reasonable inferences in support of the trial court's order. 


Plaintiff, a vice-president for sales for a lock manufacturer, brought an action against his former employer, which was his new employer's primary competitor, seeking a declaration that he was free to work for his new employer. Plaintiff had entered into a covenant not to compete. Defendant cross-complained for misappropriation of trade secrets. The trial court initially issued a temporary restraining order in response to the cross-complaint, then dissolved the order and denied defendant's application for a preliminary injunction. The trial court also rejected defendant's suggestion that it apply the inevitable disclosure doctrine, which permits a trade secret owner to prevent a former employee from working for a competitor, despite the owner's failure to prove the employee has taken or threatens to use trade secrets, by demonstrating that the employee's new job duties will inevitably cause the employee to rely upon knowledge of the former employer's trade secrets. 


Was the trial court correct when it rejected the application of the inevitable disclosure doctrine and thus denying defendant’s application for a preliminary injunction and granting plaintiff’s motion to dissolve temporary restraining order?




The alifornia intermediate appellate court granted review of the matter and found no error in the trial court's denial of the preliminary injunction. The evidence failed to establish actual or threatened misappropriation. In its opinion, the appellate court expressly rejected the inevitable disclosure of trade secrets doctrine.  Generally, the ruling on an application for preliminary injunction rests in the sound discretion of the trial court. The exercise of that discretion will not be disturbed on appeal absent a showing that it has been abused. Denial of a preliminary injunction will be upheld on appeal if the trial court did not abuse its discretion with respect to either the question of success on the merits or the question of irreparable harm. 

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