It recently came to light that the sandwich chain Jimmy John’s had been requiring its sandwich makers to sign non-compete clauses that would prevent them from making sandwiches at other restaurants for a period of two years. News of these agreements has been greeted with a degree of scorn and more than a healthy measure of skepticism. What sort of trade secrets could a sandwich maker truly have that would warrant such protection?

A recent ruling by a federal court in Washington in Genex Cooperative, Inc. v. Contreras reminds businesses to not be so over-reaching with their agreements. In Genex, three individuals who were employed to inseminate cows quit and went to a competitor. They had signed non-compete agreements that were struck down by the court as unenforceable. Inseminating cows, it seems, was not such a special skill so as to warrant a non-compete agreement.

In the end, whether its sammiches or heifer husbandry, there must be legitimate interests to protect in order to withstand judicial review.