Corp., et al. v. AU Optronics Corp. (AUO), et al., MDL No. 1827 (N.D. Cal. July 2011)
[enhanced version available to lexis.com subscribers], orders arbitration on the basis
of reasoning that is noteworthy for the litigation of international
disputes. Nokia's complaint alleges a price-fixing conspiracy by suppliers
of liquid crystal display (LCD) panels. AUO asserted, as its fifty-second
affirmative defense: To the extent Nokia has agreed to arbitration or chosen
a different form for the resolution of its claims against AUO, its claims are barred
and should be dismissed".
Still, the District Court granted the
motion to compel arbitration.
District Court held that international commercial arbitration agreements were governed
by the New York Convention and that the "federal policy favoring enforcement of
arbitration agreements 'applies with special force in the field of international
commerce" (quoting Mitsubishi Motors Corp. v. Soler Chrysler-Plymouth, Inc., 473
U.S. 614 (1985) [enhanced version / unenhanced version available from lexisONE Free Case Law].
District Court reviewed the arbitration language, which required the arbitration
of "[a]ny disputes related to this Agreement". The District Court rejected
the argument that claims of alleged industry-wide price-fixing "existing wholly
apart from the parties' contractual relationship and thus are not governed" the
by arbitration clause. In so deciding, the District Court found that the language
of the agreement was sufficiently similar to that in Simula, Inc. v. Autoliv, Inc.,
175 F.3d 716 (9th Cir. 1999) [enhanced version ],
which also compelled arbitration of an antitrust claim. Yet the language in
Simula was "[a]ll disputes arising in connection with" the agreement, not
"disputes related to" the agreement. The District Court also found that "it
is also necessary to find that some reference to the contract is essential to determining
the outcome of the dispute".
Third, the District Court found that
AUO had not waived its right to compel arbitration even though AUO litigated for
over a year, joined other defendants in a motion to dismiss, filed an answer, participated
in discovery, and took part is a meet-and-confer process.
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