King & Spalding Attorneys Win Licensing Dispute For Client; Partner Jeffrey Bucholtz Argues Before Supreme Court

Tuesday, November 12, 2013 - 14:49

King & Spalding successfully represented Johnson Research and Development Co., Inc., in a licensing dispute against Hasbro Inc. over the Nerf line of toy guns. Hasbro has been ordered to pay Johnson Research, the licensor of the line, $72.9 million in royalties.

Johnson Research filed a claim against Hasbro in February, charging that the toymaker underpaid royalties for the Nerf line from 2007 to 2012. The claim was pursued in binding arbitration in Atlanta, under terms of the licensing agreement. An arbitration hearing was held in August.

King & Spalding partner Benjamin F. Easterlin IV, associate Jonathan D. Letzring and senior attorney Jessica E. Sabbath represented Jonson Research. All three lawyers are in King & Spalding’s business litigation practice in the firm’s Atlanta office.

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On November 4, Jeffrey Bucholtz, a partner with King & Spalding, argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the petitioner in Walden v. Fiore, No. 12-574. 

The Court in Walden is considering important questions of personal jurisdiction and venue. Petitioner Anthony Walden is a Covington, Georgia, police officer who was working as a deputized U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Respondents Gina Fiore and Keith Gipson are professional gamblers who were changing planes in Atlanta on their way from a gambling excursion in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Las Vegas, Nevada, where they allegedly maintained a residence. Fiore and Gipson were carrying $97,000 in cash, which led to their questioning by DEA agents in San Juan and Atlanta. The respondents stated that the money was lawful gambling winnings, but after a narcotics-detecting dog alerted to the presence of contraband, Walden seized the cash. Respondents were allowed to board their flight to Las Vegas and were not arrested, and the government returned the money six months after the seizure. 

Respondents Fiore and Gipson filed a Bivens (or constitutional tort) action against officer Walden in federal district court in Nevada. They contend that Walden violated their Fourth Amendment rights by seizing the cash, allegedly without probable cause, and by allegedly preparing a false or misleading affidavit in support of a potential forfeiture action. All of Walden’s alleged conduct occurred in Georgia, and he argues that he lacks the required contacts with Nevada to be forced to defend this suit there. Respondents contend that Walden subjected himself to suit in Nevada by taking action in Georgia allegedly intending to cause them injury that he knew they would feel in Nevada. The district court granted Walden’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, but the Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that personal jurisdiction and venue were proper in Nevada. 

The Supreme Court granted officer Walden’s petition for certiorari to consider (1) whether due process permits a court to exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant whose sole “contact” with the forum state is his knowledge that the plaintiff has connections to that state; and (2) whether 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2), which permits venue in a district “in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred,” permits venue where the plaintiff feels the effects of the defendant’s allegedly tortious conduct occurring elsewhere. 

Mr. Bucholtz is supported by the United States as well as several other amici curiae, including a coalition of 18 states and the District of Columbia, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association. A decision is expected before the Court recesses in June 2014.

Mr. Bucholtz is a partner in the national appellate practice in the Washington, D.C., office of King & Spalding, and a member of the firm’s business litigation team. He frequently represents clients in the U.S. Supreme Court and the federal and state appellate courts as well as on important legal issues in trial court litigation and government investigations. Walden v. Fiore is his second argument in the U.S. Supreme Court. He has argued over 25 appeals spanning most of the federal circuits and several state courts, involving subject areas ranging from the False Claims Act to U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulatory issues to product liability to national security.  

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King & Spalding has recruited Maya Melnikas, a well-known figure in the Russian legal market and corporate and banking worlds, as a finance partner in its Moscow office as part of the firm’s continued commitment to develop its international finance offerings. Ms. Melnikas joins King & Spalding from White & Case, where she was a partner and co-head of financial restructuring and insolvency in the central and eastern European region.

Ms. Melnikas concentrates on bank finance, financial restructuring and mergers and acquisitions in the financial and capital markets sectors. She also has advised on financial transactions and acquisitions  n the real estate, telecommunications and natural resources sectors. Her in-depth experience in international transactions related to the Russian Federation includes representing Société Générale in a record-setting US$2.3 billion, multi-stage acquisition of Rosbank, Russia's top private consumer bank, from the Interros Group. She also advises the Industrial Union of Donbass, a diversified metals group with assets in the Ukraine, Poland and Hungary, in the restructuring of the group's debt. She recently advised Capital Partners on a US$750 million refinancing of Moscow’s Metropolis Shopping Centre with Sberbank and represented Promsvyazbank, a large Russian privately owned bank, in a US$350 million loan from a syndicate of banks led by WestLB and Bank of America Securities Limited.

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King & Spalding has announced that the following lawyers have been made partners in areas of strategic focus for the firm, effective January 1, 2014: Frank T. Bayuk, Atlanta (tobacco and pharmaceutical products liability litigation); Russell E. Blythe, Atlanta (intellectual property litigation); Andreas Böhme, Frankfurt  (real estate debt financing and regulated funds); Adam M. Conrad, Charlotte  (patent and appellate litigation); Alexandre J. Couturier, Paris (real estate and real estate funds formation); C. Shane Dornburg, Atlanta (leveraged finance transactions); Geoffrey M. Drake, Atlanta  (pharmaceutical products liability litigation); Drew D. Dropkin, Atlanta (professional liability litigation); Simon Dunbar, Singapore (international arbitration); Shannon M. Kasley, Washington (complex commercial and antitrust litigation) ; Silvia Marchili, Houston (international arbitration); Jasper M. Wauters, Geneva (trade dispute resolution and regulation, and World Trade Organization expertise); and Patrick J. Yingling, Charlotte (leveraged finance transactions).

In addition, the firm promoted the following lawyers to counsel:

Bryan D. Adams, Houston (trademark and intellectual property transactions); Rajesh D. Patel, Houston (patent portfolio counseling and prosecution); Alexandra J. Weis, Frankfurt (real estate regulatory and investment funds); and Marcus A. Young, London (mergers and acquisitions).