How to Avoid Getting Sued by a Former Employer

When the economy goes south, companies get desperate for business. Many resort to to boost their bottom lines. Some companies, like , go so far as to cook their books. Yet others opt to to gain a competitive advantage, says Michael Kump, a partner who specializes in intellectual property, antitrust and trade practices law at Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert.

"The lifeblood of most businesses is information: customer information, product information. That's why intellectual property is so highly valued," says Kump. "As economic conditions tighten and people start looking for ways to cut corners and gain an advantage, some will cross the line and do so in an illegal manner."

Specifically, says the attorney, companies may try to recruit valued employees from successful competitors in order to obtain insider information.

Such underhanded business practices-both the recruiting to obtain trade secrets and the knee-jerk litigation-pose a threat to IT workers, whose even during this economic downturn. IT professionals need to be careful about taking jobs with competitors because their former employers could try to sue them for "misappropriating trade secrets," even if they did nothing of the sort, says Kump. He expects such litigation to increase as the economic downturn continues.

This is not to say that IT professionals should avoid taking jobs with competitors (unless, of course, they've signed a with their existing employer). They just need to be aware that the potential exists, and they must take measures to protect themselves.

Kump spoke with about the rise in intellectual property litigation and ways employees can avoid it.