HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — A Korean company that says it paid the operator of the U.S. Space Rocket Center $1.75 million for a license to open a Space Camp in South Korea is alleging the company’s CEO was lured to Huntsville in February in order to be served with a lawsuit seeking to end the deal.
The filing today by Odysseia Co. argues the lawsuit filed by the Alabama Space Science and Exhibit Commission should be thrown out and the suit’s service to CEO Byung-rok Song quashed because he was invited to fly to Huntsville from South Korea to negotiate the parties’ dispute and was never informed a lawsuit was imminent.
Song says in an affidavit he met with representatives from the non-profit board that runs the Space Rocket Center, but the negotiations didn’t resolve the dispute. Song says he went to back to his hotel and was met by a person in the lobby who identified himself as an ASSEC representative. The person handed Song an envelope and told him it contained documents related to ASSEC’s business with Odysseia.
Song said he went upstairs, opened the envelope and found a summons and the lawsuit ASSEC filed seeking to block Odysseia’s license claims.
Today’s filing cites prior court cases in arguing that it’s an abuse of the lawsuit service process to use artifice to induce a would-be defendant to travel to the forum for the suit in order to serve him.
“… it cannot be denied that ASSEC had an ulterior motive for having Mr. Song visit Madison County other than settlement discussions, which was ambushing Odysseia with service of legal process (and thus attempt to bypass completely the Hague Convention’s mandates on serving a foreign defendant),” the filing argues. “Further, ASSEC’s specific failure to disclose the true facts surrounding the purpose of the meeting–as well as its failure to inform Mr. Song of the contents of the envelope containing the Summons and Complaint–demonstrates fraud, or at a minimum, trickery and deceit.”
The Hague Convention’s protocols passed in the U.S. in 1967, according to the American Bar Association, were designed to “establish a process whereby documents being served abroad might be served in a simpler and timely manner, to ensure that defendants sued in foreign jurisdictions would receive actual and timely notice of suit, and to facilitate proof of service abroad.”
The lawsuit is now in U.S. District Court after having originally been filed in Madison County Circuit on Feb. 6, the same day Song says he was served. It seeks to block any claims Odysseia has to a license for a Space Camp in Korea.
ASSEC alleges in its lawsuit the Space Rocket Center’s attorneys contend that an agreement was entered into with Odysseia in 2006 with an eye toward developing a Space Camp in South Korea.
The lawsuit describes it as an option to enter a licensing agreement. As part of that agreement the Korean firm was to make “certain nonrefundable payments to ASSEC and take other affirmative steps to acquire the authorizations and investment necessary to develop a Space Camp program in Korea.”
The complaint says Odysseia was granted a time extension to pay the fees due under the option and eventually paid the required fees in 2008. But the company never executed the license agreement and at that time, “Odysseia had not secured the required governmental approval, location or funding,” the lawsuit argues.
Although Odysseia paid the fees – the amount is not listed in the original complaint – the company failed to enter the license agreement, according to the lawsuit.
In today’s filing Odysseia’s attorneys contend the company paid $1.75 million in September 2008 and the parties agreed to keep open the timeline for the formal signing of the license agreement to allow for development of Space Camp Korea and related developments.
Odysseia’s filing argues that it wanted to formalize the license, but ASSEC officials wanted to wait until a site for the camp was finalized. The company kept working on the project, the filing argues, and asked again in June 2010 to formalize the license agreement, but ASSEC refused.
In November 2013 the company learned that ASSEC was looking to sign a Space Camp deal with another Korean company, Mirinae Development, the filing claims. Odysseia says it then asked ASSEC to cease those actions and sign the licensing agreement.
ASSEC responded by sending a “pre-litigation demand letter,” the filing contends, and then it was agreed Song would come to Huntsville to meet with ASSEC officials.
The meeting didn’t resolve the issue, Song’s affidavit claims, and he understood that ASSEC officials wanted to continue to discuss the issue in an amicable way. Song was handed the ASSEC envelope upon his return to the hotel, he said.