Karen G. Johnson-McKewan



Our tech company clients survive and thrive by rapid invention and evolution, often faster than the law can keep up. Litigating for these companies therefore demands as much art as science. An industry that pulses with creativity and constant pressure to change needs an attorney who is part litigator and part visionary.

Karen focuses on litigation that crosses the boundaries between traditional legal practices, and therefore requires inventive and strategic approaches. These solutions, tucked in the creases between law and industry, are why leading technology and Fortune 500 companies hire Karen to resolve their most complex litigation matters.

Over the past 36 years, Karen has first-chaired state and federal trials, and arbitrated more than a dozen disputes. She has managed intellectual property and commercial disputes for companies such as Oracle, NVIDIA, Netflix and VMWare.

In addition to her legal background, Karen’s relationship management skills give her clients a significant advantage. She knows how to pull together and lead the best team, from multiple disciplines within Orrick, and often involving multiple law firms. Able to unite what were, and will be, competing firms into a single powerful unit takes a special type of leadership, one which Karen has demonstrated time and again.

  • The following is a sample of some of Ms. Johnson-McKewan's cases.

    • Netflix/Fox v. Netflix and Viacom v. Netflix.  Currently representing Netflix in case challenging traditional Hollywood studios' use of long-term exclusive services agreements with business executives as anti-competitive and a violation of California's pro-mobility public policy.
    • A U.S. public university system: Currently representing the Regents of the University of California in nine student class actions seeking full or partial refunds of tuition and fees paid for Spring 2020 term because of pandemic-mandated shift to virtual instruction.
    • Santa Clara University: Currently representing Santa Clara University in student class action seeking tuition refunds because of pandemic-mandated shift to virtual instruction in Spring 2020.
    • Oracle/State of Oregon. Represented Oracle in connection with dispute arising from Oregon's failure to launch health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act.  The litigation involved constitutional questions concerning the Copyright Remedies Clarification Act and 11th Amendment immunity, claims of violation of Oregon's False Claims Act and RICO statutes, as well as complex state-federal preemption issues arising from Oregon's attempt to compel Oracle to pay the state funds Oregon itself had received in federal grants.
    • Oracle/DrugLogic. Successfully prosecuted declaratory judgment action as to Oracle's non-infringement of patents covering adverse drug reaction analysis and reporting methods.
    • Harman International. Successfully represented Harman in connection with patent litigation targeting core automated driver assistance system technology of acquired company, on-going advisory work on multiple intellectual property and commercial matters.
    • iVillage/NBC. Represented iVillage (which NBC acquired in 2006) in the complete dismissal of all federal claims, namely trademark infringement, false advertising, dilution and cybersquatting, asserted against iVillage in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California based on iVillage's use of certain trademarks on its astrology website.
    • William A. Brandt, Jr. v. NVIDIA Corporation (In re 3dfx Interactive, Inc.), U.S.D.C., Northern District of California, Bankruptcy Court. Successfully defended NVIDIA Corporation in trial of fraudulent transfer and successor liability action brought by 3dfx's bankruptcy trustee arising from NVIDIA's 2001 acquisition of assets from 3dfx Interactive, Inc.
    • Carlyle Fortran Trust, CarrAmerica Realty v. NVIDIA Corporation, U.S.D.C. Northern District of California. Successfully defended NVIDIA in litigation brought by landlords of 3dfx Interactive, Inc., alleging NVIDIA interfered with 3dfx's commercial leases by entering into an asset purchase agreement with 3dfx.
    • Shell Oil Co. v. Pacific Indemnity, et al. San Mateo Superior Court. Tried 12 week pollution coverage case on behalf of the policy-holder, the Shell Oil Company, arising from decades-old pollution at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal in Colorado. This was a retrial of a case originally tried 10 years earlier with disastrous results for our client. The original adverse judgment was reversed on appeal. Two weeks before going to the jury, the defendants agreed to an extremely satisfactory settlement.
    • Ho v. Creswell. San Francisco Superior Court. Tried and won 10 week jury trial involving allegations of securities fraud against our client, a securities broker-dealer; successfully defended verdict on appeal; recovered all attorneys' fees for client.
    • Estate of Hillblom/In Re Testamentary Trust of Larry Lee Hillblom. Superior Court of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Federal District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands, San Francisco Superior Court. Represented the Trustees of a Charitable Testamentary Trust in connection with the probate of an estate in which eight illegitimate children claimed rights as pretermitted heirs to the entirety of a US$600 million estate. Negotiated settlement of heirship claims; defended constitutionality of retroactive legislation re pretermission rights; defended Trustees against removal attempts and recovered clients' lawyers' fees from estate.
    • Sangster v. Paetkau. San Francisco Superior Court. Defended, in trial court and on appeal, a major New York law firm and individual attorneys in a malicious prosecution case.
    • Recent Pro bono: Currently represents Planned Parenthood affiliate in Louisville, Kentucky challenging that state's abortion clinic licensing statute; represented Arizona's Secretary of State in planning for disruptions in 2020 primary and general elections; led team providing a 50-state survey of laws concerning executive powers to facilitate absentee-voting during 2020 pandemic.