Practice/Industry Group Overview
Sutherland delivers practical advice and legal representation to the leaders of the automotive industry in all aspects of their legal needs.
Sutherland provides skilled representation to clients in all sectors of the automotive industry. Clients include a majority of the top 25 automotive manufacturers and/or distributors in the United States and the world’s leading remarketer of motor vehicles. We represent automotive industry clients in litigation and provide advice on corporate, tax and intellectual property matters.
Sutherland’s Automotive Litigation and Counseling team advises manufacturers, franchisors, auctions, websites, technology providers and other automotive industry participants. We develop sales and licensing agreements and forms and manage disputes at all levels to resolve issues proactively. When litigation cannot be avoided, our trial lawyers advocate on behalf of automotive clients in virtually every type of judicial, administrative and alternative dispute resolution proceeding.
Our automotive clients routinely operate across state and national borders and on the Internet. They are often relying on, creating or selling cutting-edge technology and we are adept at navigating the traditional world of automotive regulation in a sophisticated technological business environment.
Full service. We offer a complete suite of legal services, including a full range of litigation support, corporate advice, tax representation and intellectual property representation.
Industry understanding. Our Automotive Counseling and Litigation team touches all aspects of the industry. We represent manufacturers, franchisees, automotive financial services companies, parts distributors, vehicle auctioneers, websites and technology partners for the industry. This experience gives Sutherland a breadth and depth of knowledge that is the foundation of each of our client relationships.
Bottom-line focus. We know our clients are in business and are accountable for bottom-line results. We tailor our legal advice and litigation strategies to achieve the best possible result in harmony with the client’s commercial interests.
History of success. Sutherland’s insight into how the industry has developed over the years benefits our clients whether we are advising on compliance matters, merger agreements, negotiating contracts or fighting for our clients in litigation.
Proactive advice. We share current regulatory developments and identify proven industry practices to assist clients in integrating new business practices operationally.
Prevention. Our automotive counseling and litigation attorneys operate on the business relationships. To that end, we work to head off problems that can become lengthy and expensive actions.
Nuts and Bolts
Our automotive services include:
- Defending complex litigation claims and investigations—contractual, statutory, business tort, consumer credit, employment, antitrust, unfair competition, real estate and regulatory
- Terminating franchisee-dealers, including performance and fraud-based terminations
- Counseling on licensing needs and state and federal regulatory compliance, including NHTSA, DMV, privacy and consumer protection regulations
- Assessing and negotiating collateral priority disputes under the UCC and intercreditor agreements
- Responding to and contesting government investigative and private party subpoenas
- Lender liability litigation with dealers, trustees and other creditors
- Assessing and pursuing violations of non-compete and non-disclosure agreements
- Class action defense of retail and lease consumer law claims of all types
- Counseling manufacturers on expanding or establishing dealer networks in the United States
- Perfecting and protecting intellectual property, through licensing agreements and NDAs and through trademarks and patents (prosecution and domestication)
- Counseling on trademark usage requirements and restrictions
- Advising on and drafting exclusive dealing arrangements
- Establishing franchise controls (including pricing, territorial and customer restrictions)
- Drafting and defending franchise location and exclusive area covenants
- Defending patent troll infringement claims and counseling clients regarding third party patents
- Conducting patent clearance studies for new products and services
- Preparing sales agreements, disclosures and other business forms, with automotive regulatory requirements in mind
Sutherland’s depth of involvement in the automotive industry complements the substantive win record achieved on behalf of our clients in court proceedings, before arbitration panels and in negotiations with third parties.
Sutherland rewrites suite of customer purchase agreements and policies for international auto remarketer.
Sutherland lawyers have advised a global auto auction and remarketing company on revisions to most of their purchase agreements and customer policies across various sales channels, online and offline.
Sutherland defends automotive finance company in wave of fair lending cases.
Sutherland defended one of the world’s largest auto finance companies in a series of nationwide class actions challenging discretionary credit pricing by originating dealers brought under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. Our class action was the only one to be tried and the first case to be denied certification.
Sutherland wins summary judgment in lost profits damages case brought by would-be dealer.
Sutherland successfully defended an automobile manufacturer in federal court against claims by a would-be purchaser of a Suzuki dealership, who sued for millions in lost profits damages after Suzuki turned down the proposed transaction.