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Name, title and company: Ray Berens, general counsel in North America for Wilson Sporting Goods Co. (and all of its U.S. affiliates), Precor Inc., Atomic Ski USA and Suunto, all of which are owned by Amer Group PLC of Helsinki, Finland Age: 44 Good sports: Wilson Sporting Goods and the others design, manufacture and distribute sports and training equipment, focusing on technologically advanced products and gear designed to help the user improve athletic performance. Chicago-based Wilson’s origins can be traced to turn-of-the-century meatpacker Wilson Foods. Among its animal byproducts were leather used in baseball gloves, hockey skates and tennis strings. Wilson Sporting Goods Co., which became a separate entity in 1914, reported 2002 revenue in excess of $600 million. Patent litigation: “This is where the money is made or lost in our litigation business,” said the GC, explaining that more than 40% of his work is in this area. Parent company Amer has prevailed in two recent patent cases: As publicly reported, it netted $23 million in a settlement with Brunswick Corp.’s Life Fitness division in a dispute over elliptical fitness-equipment technology. After countersuing for patent infringement, Wilson was also paid a reported $8 million to settle a long-standing suit instigated by Prince Sports questioning the validity of Wilson’s patent for its unique, super-lightweight “Hammer” racquet. The Amer Group was assisted on the Life Fitness case by lawyers from Christensen, O’Connor, Johnson & Kindness of Seattle. Seyfarth Shaw’s Michael Levinson and Alan Unikel, in Chicago, worked on the Prince matter, along with Amer’s chief outside patent counsel, John Chestnut of Chicago’s Greer Burns & Crain. Advertising, promotion, endorsement: If patent litigation is Berens’ main course, these areas represent his bread and butter. The legal department participates in many stages of the moving of the consumer product (which runs the gamut from sports equipment to apparel) from design to shipment to sales. Endorsement contracts and distribution agreements play prominent roles in product visibility and subsequent revenue. Berens works with agents for athlete endorsers such as Michael Jordan and the tennis-playing Williams sisters, Venus and Serena. The legal department also works out agreements with entities like the U.S. Tennis Open and the National Football League. A Wilson ball has scored every point in the NFL since 1941. “Wilson,” Tom Hanks’ volleyball companion in the movie Cast Away, was such a popular advertisement for the company that one of the three original “Wilsons” sold at auction for $18,400. Wilson v. rivals: The sporting goods giant is a party in several nonpatent suits, and it has fought off a Lanham Act claim filed by Spalding Sports Worldwide, which had accused Wilson of falsely and unfairly depicting Wilson’s golf ball as being better balanced and more accurate than its golf ball. Pending in federal court in St. Louis is a trademark suit filed by Rawlings Sporting Goods, alleging that Wilson violated its exclusive marketing rights to basketballs with an NCAA championship logo. Also, in district court in Columbus, Ohio, is a trademark infringement suit launched by golfer Jack Nicklaus seeking damages for Wilson’s use of his first name in its “Jack” golf balls and “Jackpack” packaging. Wilson, in turn, has filed a declamatory judgment for noninfringement. MA, etc.: With consolidation a trend in the sporting goods industry, Berens said he has experienced an increase in his mergers and acquisitions activity. Recent examples are the $20 million purchase of DeMarini Sports, maker of a “high tech” softball bat, and the acquisition of Precor, a maker of ergonomically advanced fitness equipment (for a confidential amount). Joe Greenberg of Chicago’s Gardner Carton & Douglas works on M&As with Berens, who said that frequent due diligence trips and “a lot of looking around” are two consequences of the growth in this area. The Amer Group has a number of products liability cases pending at any given time, primarily slip-and-falls from exercise equipment or ski-related injuries. Berens, though, tries to devote his litigation resources to cases that, if won, will boost product sales. He considers products liability and employment cases to be “loss-minimization” matters. “I try to make sure that we have insurance against them,” he said. Legal department: Berens supervises patent counsel Terry O’Brien, contracts counsel Andr� Pabarue and two paralegals. Berens himself reports to all U.S. division presidents. The GC said his team is exceptionally active in litigation and preps all of the witnesses and commonly uses Wilson employees as experts. Berens uses outside counsel for procedural matters and litigating in court, and emphasizes that he prefers to hire individuals, not particular firms. Chicago-based solo practitioner Jeff Key is used by Berens on a per-project basis. Route to the top: Born in Oak Park, Ill., and a resident of suburban Chicago, Berens graduated in 1981 from the University of Illinois and received his law degree three years later from the University of Michigan. Directly out of law school in 1984, he began serving in the corporate and securities department of Chicago’s Chapman and Cutler. Looking to make a career change and to broaden his practice, Berens said, he interviewed with Wilson in 1988 and was hired to work on a public offering. A year later, this evolved into a private sale of the company to the Amer Group, which he helped orchestrate. He was promoted to general counsel in 1996. Berens considers sports (“I try to play absolutely everything, from darts to hockey”) to be equally important as his legal background. He rues his lack of spare time to participate in athletics and believes that in law, as in sports, the extra effort can compensate for potential missteps. He also offers this advice for would-be lawyers: “I call it the four Ps. A fun job and a worthwhile livelihood as a lawyer would have you working on a good product with people you like. Hopefully, the company has profitability and you like the breadth of practice.” Family: He and his wife, Ann, have two children: Michael, 8, and Jackie, 6. Last book and movie: Life of Pi, by Yann Martel, and Good Boy!, to which Berens “took my kids so that they wouldn’t have to suffer through the Cubs losing the seventh game of the playoffs.” �Roger Adler

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