Paul Hastings’ eight-partner appellate team won success in intellectual property, immigration and securities matters last year. But the firm’s work fending off employment class actions for its corporate clients was particularly noteworthy.
In a high-profile labor case, Neal Mollen, co-chairman of the firm’s appellate practice, scored a major victory for the pharmaceutical industry before the U.S. Supreme Court in Christopher v. GlaxoSmithKline. Drug companies had long viewed their thousands of sales representatives as independent contractors and didn’t pay them overtime. That practice fell into doubt when Novartis A.G. in 2010 lost a class action in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit brought by sales reps seeking overtime pay and settled for $99 million.
When Glaxo was hit with a similar suit, the deck seemed stacked. Mollen nevertheless helped Glaxo win its case before the Ninth Circuit, but with the unfavorable Novartis ruling on the books, Mollen took the unusual step of seeking Supreme Court review of his own win. It paid off when the justices upheld the Glaxo ruling, 5-4, establishing that drug companies would not have to offer overtime pay to sales reps.
On the West Coast, partner Paul Cane Jr. has become a go-to appellate lawyer for California employment cases. Star Wars creator George Lucas’ Lucasfilm Ltd. brought him in after losing a $1.2 million jury verdict in a pregnancy bias case. In November, a California appellate court reversed the verdict after Cane argued that the trial judge should have instructed the jury not to second-guess an employer’s business judgment.
On the intellectual property front, partner Robert Sherman represented L’Oréal S.A., which licenses Ralph Lauren’s Polo brand for its fragrances, in a dispute with the U.S. Polo Association. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled in February that USPA’s use of a double-horseman logo on fragrances was likely to cause confusion with Lauren’s iconic single horseman.Meanwhile, Barry Sher prevailed before the Second Circuit last year for United Kingdom-based Invensys PLC, which was sued by Owens-Illinois Inc. over millions of dollars in losses stemming from patent infringement suits involving a packaging company Owens had bought from Invensys. Partner Gerald Flattmann Jr. helped biotech startup Gevo Inc. convince the Federal Circuit to lift a potentially crippling injunction won by a rival related to the development of fuel made from corn or other feedstock using genetically modified yeast.