As regards the problem of the excessively wide interpretation of the legal restrictions which are applicable in our country against agreements not to compete with one's employer after the conclusion of the employment relationship, the Italian Court of Cassation has established some important principles, as a result of a recent case (judgement no. 10062/94).

In particular, the Court of Cassation has recognised the principle under which even widely defined territory and activity forming the object of a non-competition agreement do not, in themselves, cause the agreement to be void, but it is necessary, instead, to consider the circumstances of the case in question, or rather the particular professional background of the employee, so that one agreement which is considered void in respect of one employee may be considered reasonable and valid in respect of another.

From this, derives the consequence that the adequateness compensation agreed must not be determined a priori, but considered on a case-by-case basis, with reference to the sacrifice being imposed: so that, also in this case, the same compensation that is judged to be unsuitable in certain cases, may be appropriate in relation to other subjects, for whom the agreement entered into does not involve a salient sacrifice to their right to pursue a professional career. The innovative nature of the decision stands out, above all, in the sense of its overcoming the previous tendency in case law to inflict nullity on non-competition agreements by appreciating in abstract the alleged excessive width of the object of the agreement and of the territory provided, or the scantiness of the compensation agreed, instead of relating to the individual professional standing and the actual position of the employee concerned.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.