Kenneth J. Vanko


P: (630) 871-2609
F: (630) 871-9869

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Twitter: @KenVanko

Mr. Vanko’s practice focuses on competition litigation, particularly in the areas of restrictive covenants, trade secret misappropriation, employee raiding, fiduciary duty compliance, partnership dissolution and dissociation, deceptive trade practices, and shareholder direct and derivative actions relating to deadlock and oppression.

Mr. Vanko counsels and advises employees, executives and business owners on issues pertaining to competitive business transitions in a wide range of industries.  He strives to address potential transition disputes early to avoid and manage risk from an optimal position.

Mr. Vanko also coordinates and manages the firm’s chancery litigation practice and has extensive experience prosecuting and defending proceedings for injunctions and other equitable relief in state and federal courts. Finally, he drafts and negotiates contracts related to employment, professional services, licensing, distribution, and intellectual property protection.


Mr. Vanko joined Clingen Callow & McLean in 2001.  His broad experience includes:

  • Obtained several preliminary injunctions in restrictive covenant disputes on behalf of publicly-traded industrial supplier against two former sales agents
  • Successfully defended and obtained summary judgment on all claims in trade secrets and non-compete case against multiple defendants in the construction labor staffing industry, affirmed on appeal at Tradesmen Int'l v. Black, 724 F.3d 1004 (7th Cir. 2013)
  • Successfully defended and obtained summary judgment on $5 million trade secrets dispute involving retail insurance brokerage industry, excluding all expert testimony related to lost profits and royalty damages
  • Successfully tried to final judgment a shareholder dissolution complaint in Champaign County, Illinois, also obtaining in that case a sanctions judgment against the defendant shareholder of over $123,000
  • Achieved complete defense judgment and obtained attorneys’ fees from plaintiff in non-competition dispute involving auto glass service business
  • Representend prevailing defendants in cancellation proceeding before United States Patent and Trademark Office's Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, where dispute concerned priority of use over registered service mark
  • Served as lead appellate counsel for privately-held business which successfully dismissed wrongful termination claim on grounds that employee did not establish corporate successor liability
  • Obtained jury verdict in favor of technology services firm against multiple employees for misappropriation of corporate opportunity, including award of punitive damages
  • Prevailed on appeal for defendant in marriage dissolution case, where spouse sought indemnity of legal fees in employment dispute
  • Second-chaired trial in Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois to successful jury verdict for plaintiff on claim involving breach of executive employment agreement
  • Coordinated defense of public university in defense of class action employment discrimination case and obtained summary judgment for university on all claims
  • Obtained complete dismissal of vertical non-competition claims brought by print brokerage company against manufacturer of adhesive labels
  • Secured full dismissal of employee non-competition claim brought by office equipment manufacturer against designer and salesperson
  • Obtained temporary restraining order against former executive for misappropriation of company assets and commercial bribery, resulting in favorable seven-figure settlement and incarceration of defendant through separate criminal proceedings
  • Obtained temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction for commercial landlord against business tenant for creating public and private nuisance
  • Successfully defended temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction proceedings for mortgage brokers arising out of non-compete and trade secret claims, also obtaining judgment for wrongful issuance of ex parte TRO
  • Acted as lead counsel for national technology company to obtain temporary restraining order against former employee who posed threats of violence to co-workers and who interfered with customer relationships, resulting in final judgment against defendant
  • Obtained defense judgment for defendant accused of violating federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act
  • Negotiated departure of high-level corporate executives faced with threatened litigation over “inevitable disclosure” of trade secrets in insurance brokerage, high-frequency trading, banking and wireless services industries
  • Successfully defended and obtained dismissal of deceptive trade practices act claim on grounds of copyright preemption
  • Negotiated favorable settlements in federal Lanham Act cases for both plaintiffs and defendants
  • Secured numerous stipulations to dismiss after discovery in federal cases for defendants in cases involving trademark infringement, trade secrets misappropriation, and common-law business torts

Practice includes representation of clients before Illinois Department of Employment Security Board of Review, State of Illinois Department of Insurance, and United States Trademark Trial and Appeals Board.

Before joining the firm in 2001, Mr. Vanko was an associate in the chancery litigation practice at Baker & McKenzie in Chicago, Illinois.

Reported Decisions and Cases of Interest


  • Gevas v. McLaughlin, 798 F.3d 475 (7th Cir. 2015) (reversed motion for judgment as a matter of law in Section 1983 case and remanded for new trial).
  • HSBC Bank v. Townsend, 793 F.3d 771 (7th Cir. 2015) (appeal dismissed for lack of jurisdiction; appointed counsel to represent pro se litigant who appealed judgment of foreclosure and to address unique issue of appellate jurisdiction), petition for certiorari pending in No. 15-505.
  • Tradesman Int'l, Inc. v. Black, 724 F.3d 1004 (7th Cir. 2013) (affirmed summary judgment in favor of ex-employees in trade secrets and non-compete dispute; established new rule of law concerning attorneys' fee shifting statute under Illinois Trade Secrets Act).
  • Capstone Financial Advisors, Inc. v. Plywaczynski, 2015 IL App (2d) 150957-U (appeal from denial of temporary restraining order in trade secrets and non-compete case in financial services industry).
  • DeMauro v. MTH Industries, LLC, 2014 IL App (1st) 132383-U (successor corporate liability on retaliatory discharge case).
  • Peters v. Peters, 2011 IL App (2d) 110148-U (fee-shifting arising out of civil litigation related to marital settlement agreement).

Trial Court – Notable and Representative Cases

  • Ruedi v. Holder (Circuit Court of the Sixth Judicial Circuit, Champaign County, Illinois), No. 13 MR 997 (bench trial; successful representation of three shareholders in investment management firm and obtained order of judicial dissolution board of directors arising out of board deadlock).
  • Lawson Products, Inc. v. Nygard (United States District Court for the District of Montana), No. 12-cv-25 (preliminary injunction trial; successful representation
    of publicly-traded company in non-compete dispute).
  • Lawson Products, Inc. v. Anderson (United States District Court for the District Court of Minnesota), No. 12-cv-2882 (preliminary injunction trial; successful representation of publicly-traded company in non-compete dispute).
  • Accurate Alloy v. Steinke (Circuit Court of the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit, Illinois), No. 12 CH 135 (bench trial; successful representation of individual employee defending non-compete lawsuit).
  • Coyne v. Pactiv Corp. (Circuit Court of the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit, Illinois), No. 11 MR 1135 (bench trial; represented former executive in declaratory judgment action arising out of separation agreement; judgment rendered in favor of employer).
  • Revolution Credit v. McMahon (Circuit Court of the Twenty-Second Judicial Circuit, Illinois), No. 10 CH 2297 (preliminary injunction trial; successful representation of individual sued for trade secrets misappropriation; obtained judgment for damages arising out of wrongfully issued restraining order).
  • Tradesmen Int'l, Inc. v. Black (United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois), No. 10-cv-2098 (summary judgment; employee non-compete and trade secrets dispute in labor staffing industry).
  • Computer Business Systems v. Londos (Circuit Court of the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit), No. 05-CH-128 (jury trial; claims against ex-employees for breach of fiduciary duty).
  • Legacy, Inc. v. TEKserve POS (United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois), No. 05 C 5431 (preliminary injunction trial; successful defense of ex-employee in preliminary injunction trial arising out of breach of employment contract and computer fraud).
  • Corporate Disk Co. v. McLaughlin (Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois), No. 04 CH 15636 (preliminary injunction trial; represented former sales employee in injunction proceeding to enforce non-compete agreement; employer obtained injunction).
  • Harmon Glass v. Lange (Superior Court of Marion County, Indiana), No. 49D02-0401-PL-174 (bench trial; successful representation of employee and new employer in trade secrets and non-competition dispute).
  • Combined Ins. Group v. Koth (Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois), No. 02-L-1823 (summary judgment; trade secrets claim in insurance brokerage business).
  • Harris v. Univ. of Illinois (United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois), No. 97-cv-4783) (summary judgment and dismissal order; representation of public university on multi-plaintiff claims for age, sex, and race discrimination).

Trial Court – Published Decisions

  • Baer v. Interim Occupational Health, Inc., 2000 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1664 (W.D.N.Y. Feb. 16, 2000) (motion to dismiss age discrimination claim).
  • Boiler Specialist, LLC v. Corrosion Monitoring Svcs., Inc., 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 104321 (W.D. Ky. July 26, 2012) (motion to transfer venue under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a)).
  • Harris v. Univ. of Illinois, 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5652 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 1, 1999) (motion for summary judgment on age, sex, and race discrimination claims).
  • Harris v. Univ. of Illinois, 2000 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2675 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 28, 2000) (motion to dismiss claims against state employer for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction under Kimel v. Florida Board of Regents, 528 U.S. 62 (2000)).
  • In re Ellis, 2011 Bankr. LEXIS 4169 (Bankr. S.D. Ind. Oct. 27, 2011) (determination of extent of LLC membership interests as part of Chapter 7 bankruptcy estate).
  • In re Ellis, 2014 Bankr. LEXIS 1952 (Bankr. S.D. Ind. Apr. 30, 2014) (Chapter 7 debtor's standing to object to trustee's fee application).
  • Lawson Products, Inc. v. Anderson, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 47338 (D. Minn. Apr. 2, 2013) (preliminary injunction in restrictive covenant case).
  • Powers v. Schawk USA, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 101094 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 24, 2010) (fee petition following motion to remand to state court).
  • Pumponator, Inc. v. Water Sports, LLC, 868 F. Supp. 2d 742 (N.D. Ill. 2012) (motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction).
  • Sentry Insurance v. Estrella Ins. Svcs., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83282 (D. Nev. June 13, 2013) (motion to dismiss commercial disparagement claim).
  • Tradesmen Int'l v. Black, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 61633 (C.D. Ill. June 7, 2011) (summary judgment on reasonableness of non-competition agreements).
  • Tradesmen Int'l v. Black, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 128578 (C.D. Ill. Nov. 7, 2011) (summary judgment following discovery on non-compete, trade secrets, and other business tort claims).
  • Tradesmen Int'l v. Black, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52335 (C.D. Ill. Apr. 13, 2012) (fee petition under Illinois Trade Secrets Act).
  • Vehicle Valuation Svcs., Inc. v. DiMaria, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 146573 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 10, 2013) (dismissal of claim under Computer Fraud and Abuse Act).
  • Wahlberg v. Benson Builders, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 102402 (W.D. Mich. July 24, 2012) (motion to dismiss for lack of justiciable case or controversy in non-compete dispute).
  • Williams v. Cars Collision Center, LLC, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 49603 (N.D. Ill. July 9, 2007) (summary judgment in age, sex, and disability discrimination claim).

Administrative Proceedings – Notable and Representative Cases

  • District Enterprises, Inc. v. Independence Towing & Recovery, Inc., Trademark Trial and Appeals Board Cancellation No. 92055302 (successful representation of trademark owner in petition to cancel mark based on claimed priority of use; petition to cancel dismissed after TTAB trial)
  • In re Herwaldt, Ill. Dep’t of Empl. Security Docket No. 1333443 (overturned referee’s ruling on denial of employee’s claim for unemployment benefits; case involved employer’s argument that employee committed “misconduct” by refusing to sign an unenforceable confidentiality agreement)

Publication & Seminars

Mr. Vanko publishes a national blog dedicated to the law concerning restrictive covenants and other unfair competition claims, which can be found at He also has authored articles on employment restrictive covenants and other business law topics in The DePaul University Business and Commercial Law JournalIllinois Bar Journal, and local bar association publications.  He frequently lectures on competition law topics and is an active member of the American Intellectual Property Law Association's Trade Secrets Committe.


I have been privileged to work with many great business clients and advise them on a challenging, difficult area of the Law.  I believe in working collaboratively with our clients to understand fully the goals that are most important to them.  Responsiveness, accurate advice and a thorough understanding of our clients’ issues – both from a business and legal perspective – are the hallmarks of my practice.



Practice Areas

Labor & Employment

Trade Secrets


Juris Doctor, magna cum laude, 1997
University of Illinois College of Law, Champaign, Illinois

Bachelor of Science, in Business Administration, cum laude, 1994

The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

Honors & Awards

The Ohio State University, Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, Beta Gamma Sigma Honorary Fraternity

While in law school he was the Editor of the 1997 Moot Court Board and Associate Editor of the University of Illinois Law Review.