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Rulings Affect Pensions, King Kong Trademark, Sears Roebuck

December 1, 1986

Undated (AP) _ Pension benefits, copyright laws and import fraud were the subject of Supreme Court decisions issued Monday in three business-related cases with protagonists that ranged from the nation’s largest retailer to King Kong.

The high court agreed to review a ruling that favors businesses seeking to withdraw from muti-employer pension plans; rejected the appeal of a Hollywood film studio that lost a trademark battle to a Japanese video company; and refused to reinstate a judge removed from presiding over fraud charges against Sears, Roebuck & Co.

In the pension case, the justices said they would hear appeals by the Federal Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp. and a Teamsters union local over a lower court ruling that invalidated part of a 1980 law designed to discourage withdrawal from multi-employer pension plans.

Yahn & McDonnell Inc., a Philadelphia tobacco distributor that went out of business in 1981, withdrew from such a plan and challenged a subsequent pension charge of $458,000 made in accordance with the 1980 law. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that part of the law violated the company’s rights.

In convincing the high court to review the decision, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. said there are thousands of multi-employer pension plans nationwide covering millions of workers and that the 3rd Circuit court ruling, if adopted nationally, could devastate such plans.

In the second case, dubbed ″King Kong Meets Donkey Kong,″ the court let stand without comment a ruling that Los Angeles-based Universal City Studies must pay $1.5 million to Nintendo Company of Japan.

Universal lost a federal lawsuit that charged Nintendo with infringing the movie company’s King Kong trademark by marketing the hit video game, Donkey Kong. Nintendo countersued and was awarded more than $1.5 million in lawyers’ fees and damages based on charges Universal interfered with the Japanese firm’s sale of the video game rights to American outlets.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Universal was trying to have it both ways, noting that the company argued in a 1975 lawsuit that any copyright in the 1933 King Kong story had lapsed and was in the public domain. At that time Universal was planning a remake of the movie.

In the third case, the high court let stand a federal appeals court ruling that disqualified Chief U.S. District Judge Manuel L. Real after he threw out fraud charges against Sears three times because of what he called misconduct by the prosecutors. The charges against Sears were reinstated.

The case began in 1980 when the Justice Department accused Chicago-based Sears, the country’s No. 1 retailer, of overstating prices paid for Japanese television sets to avoid duties imposed on foreign companies selling goods in the United States for less than they do at home.

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