My Toughest Case: A multimillion-dollar patent infringement dispute over self-release parking boots
Christopher K. Ralston
Partner, Phelps Dunbar LLP
18 years in practice
B.A. College of William & Mary
J.D. Tulane University Law School
Well before he became a lawyer, Christopher K. Ralston owned both a restaurant and a rental car company, and as a result, developed business skills that have helped him excel in his current area of legal expertise.
Ralston is a commercial litigator partner at Phelps Dunbar LLP – a law firm with 10 offices across the country, including one in Downtown New Orleans. He manages disputes between companies and advises multinational corporations and nascent businesses with disputes that may involve antitrust laws, business torts, trade secret litigation, contract disputes, tax litigation and intellectual property litigation.
“I felt like I could relate to a business owner, because I had been one,” said Ralston, explaining why he was attracted to commercial litigation.
After receiving a bachelor of arts in international relations from the College of William & Mary, Ralston earned a juris doctor from Tulane University Law School, and then worked as a law clerk for the United States District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana.
Although Ralston interned and clerked for Phelps Dunbar during his second summer of law school, he officially joined the firm in 2000.
He says one of his toughest cases occurred in late 2017, during which Ralston and his Phelps Dunbar team scored a major legal victory for his client, SP Plus Corporation – a publicly traded corporation.
The corporation had been threatened with a patent infringement action by a New York-based entity in the parking industry because of its use of self-release parking boots in New Orleans.
Phelps successfully sought an order from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, declaring that the two patents issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office were invalid as a matter of law. The Federal Circuit later affirmed the ruling in favor of SP Plus Corporation.
“It was very intensive in terms of injunctions,” he says. “There were proceedings in multiple courts, and pretty high stakes. We’re talking about millions of dollars.”
In the end, however, Ralston says the fast-paced case was challenging, but well worth the effort.
“It’s gratifying to feel like you’ve done a good job for the client, who you’ve gotten to know and appreciate over time,” he says.
Ralston was quick to credit his Phelps Dunbar crew for the win.
“We have a very strong pool of talent here,” he says. “I was the lead, but there were also a bunch of lawyers who were very capable, and who did high-level work for the client.”