Judge Preliminarily Approves NCAA’s $209 Million Antitrust Settlement

A U.S. District judge has granted preliminary approval for a $208.7 million settlement in the antitrust lawsuit between student-athletes and the NCAA/eleven athletic conferences. The approval came after revisions were added to exclude claims in other athletes’ suits and to modify class definitions. As background, the student-athletes’ original complaint, filed in 2014, challenged the NCAA’s rules prohibiting universities from paying students a larger sum than a full grant-in-aid — which covers the up to the full cost of university attendance. Not only did the student-athletes sue the NCAA, but also eleven conferences: Pac-12, The Big Ten, The Big 12, Southeastern, Atlantic Coast, American Athletic, Conference USA, Mid-American Athletic, Mountain West, Sun Belt, and Western Athletic. When the NCAA originally agreed to the proposed deal in February, it stated that it ...
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Costco Teeing Up IP Suit with Golf Ball Maker Titleist

Costco Corporation has filed suit in Washington federal court, seeking a declaration that its discount golf ball, the Kirkland Signature (KS) ball, does not violate any patents held by golf brand Titleist’s parent, Acushnet Co. Costco initiated this declaratory action when Acushnet allegedly sent “a threatening letter” accusing it of patent infringement and false advertising. Acushnet, a Massachusetts company, manufactures one of the top golf performance equipment brands, Titleist. The patents at issue, in pertinent part, relate to the hardness of the golf ball’s outer core; the inner core’s surface hardness; the first three layers of the golf ball’s “coefficient of restitution;” and the KS ball’s percentage of “dimples.” Notably, a 12-pack of Titleist “Pro V1” golf balls retails for around $50, while the same quantity of KS golf balls ...
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Former NFL Stars Who Opted Out of the NFL Concussion Litigation Rejoin Class

Two former NFL stars, Joe Horn and Chris McAlister, became the latest players to reinstate themselves in the NFL’s uncapped concussion litigation, after initially opting out of the class action. As background, the settlement established a bottomless fund over a 65-year span — with a potential payout of over $1 billion — to compensate a class of over 20,000 former NFL players now suffering from serious degenerative conditions linked to traumatic brain injuries, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and dementia. Under the settlement, each player will receive payments ranging from $1.5 million to $5 million. McAlister, a former cornerback for the Baltimore Ravens, had opted out of the concussion settlement — which was approved in 2015. Also, Horn, a former wide receiver for the New Orleans Saints, initially opted out ...
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Game Developer Agrees to Cease Usage of “April Madness” and “Final 3” in 2017

Game developer Kizzang LLC, accused by the NCAA of infringing on the Association’s “March Madness” Trademark, has agreed to cease use of similar marks for any of its basketball-themed games during 2017 — while the infringement suit proceeds in Indiana federal court. As background, the NCAA — an avid defender of its “March Madness” mark — filed suit against Kizzang and its owner, Robert Alexander, less than a week before the annual commencement of its men’s basketball tournament. As previously reported, the NCAA’s complaint accused Kizzang’s online fantasy game “April Madness” of violating its mark. Also, the NCAA alleged Kizzang’s “Final 3” online bracket-predicting game infringed the NCAA’s “Final Four” trademark. The NCAA’s complaint stated that it “partners with a select group of businesses committed to supporting the mission and ...
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Wideman’s 10-Game Suspension Stands Despite NHL’s Insistence that Arbitrator Overstepped his Bounds

A New York federal judge recently confirmed the decision of James Oldham, an arbitrator, to reduce Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman’s suspension for hitting a referee. As background, in January, 2016 Wideman was hit by another player while on the ice, which caused him to suffer a concussion. As he was skating to his bench, Wideman — looking dazed and confused — collided with a referee, Henderson. Henderson hit the ground and suffered from a concussion. The commissioner suspended Wideman for the minimum amount of time for a hit to an official meant to cause harm. Subsequently, the NHL Players’ Association moved for arbitration, and in June, the NHL sought to reinstate the full suspension. Notably, Oldham reduced Wideman’s suspension from 20 games to only ten. The NHL argued that ...
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Are Millennials’ TV Watching Habits Jeopardizing the Future of Sports?

Millennial sports fans are moving away from cable television and traditional sports towards online video game tournaments and other “eSports.” A study conducted by LEK Consulting revealed a “sharp generational divide” among sports fans. This divide is marked by a change in TV viewing habits between millennials (those between 18-25 years old) and those above 35. The report stipulated that millennials are spending less time watching traditional cable television, and thus, losing interest in traditional sports. As background, LEK conducted a survey of 1,500 U.S. sports fans, which showed that millennial sports fans with any interest in eSports significantly prefer their favorite eSport to traditional sports. Non-millennial sports fans reported spending 41 percent of their media time on TV, but only 9 percent of it on online TV. However, millennial ...
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Helmet Maker Riddell Free to Move Forward with Patent Infringement Litigation During PTAB Review

On Sunday, March 19, 2017, an Illinois Federal Judge denied Kranos Corporation’s and Xenith LLC’ motion to stay Riddell’s helmet patent infringement cases against them, holding that a pending Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) review does not provide an automatic stay for the two cases. As previously reported, Riddell filed two lawsuits against Kranos and Xenith in April 2016, alleging their helmet designs infringed Riddell’s patented helmet designs. While the judge presiding over the case denied Riddell’s motion to consolidate the two cases, he allowed the cases to proceed on the same discovery schedule. Both suits alleged violations of U.S. Patent Numbers 8,938,818 and 8,528,118 — entitled “Sports Helmet.” Each patent covers Riddell’s helmets basic shape and design, which includes the outer plastic shell and ventilation openings. The complaint ...
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Ex-NFL Players Argue NFL in Violation of the Controlled Substances Act: Forcing Players to Play While Injured and Hopped up on Painkillers

Retired NFL Players claiming that their teams pushed them to abuse painkillers recently filed an amended complaint alleging that doctors and trainers supplied narcotics and painkillers in order to keep the players on the field — even though “[p]layers [we]re not informed of the long-term health effects of taking controlled substances and prescription medications in the amounts given to them.” The complaint further claims that teams “maintain the return to play practice or policy by ensuring that players are not told of the health risks associated with taking [the] medications.” As background, the retired players alleged that the league and its teams placed a substantial amount of pressure on players to return to the field immediately following injuries — encouraging them to even play through their injuries while doped up ...
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NCAA Initiates Trademark Infringement Suit Against Online Game Developer Over “April Madness”

With “March Madness” upon us, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) filed suit in the Southern District of Indiana, alleging trademark infringement and unfair competition. As background, the NCAA has used the trademarks “Final Four” and “March Madness” to identify and distinguish is basketball competitions for over twenty years. The NCAA marks cover goods like duffel bags, tote bags, and telecommunication services. Notorious for protecting its right to the “Madness” name, the NCAA initiated this trademark infringement suit over online fantasy games called “April Madness.” Also, the NCAA claimed that the “Final 3” online bracket-predicting game is a blatant infringement of the NCAA’s “Final Four” trademark. The NCAA’s complaint names online game maker, Kizzang LLC and its owner, Robert Alexander, as the defendants in this suit. The defendants provide national ...
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North Carolina Lawmaker Believes NCAA and ACC Engaged in Excessive Lobbying Over HB2

While the country is busy preparing their March Madness brackets, the fight over HB2 in North Carolina continues. As previously discussed on this blog, one impact HB2 had on North Carolina was the NCAA and ACC’s decision to remove several championship events away from the state. However, one North Carolina lawmaker has recently questioned whether the NCAA and ACC violated their tax-exempt status by moving sports championships outside of North Carolina. According to the IRS, no 501(c)(3) organization may qualify for tax-exempt status if “a substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence legislation.” Such an “organization may engage, in some lobbying, but too much lobbying activity risks loss of tax-exempt status.” Mark Brody, a North Carolina House Republican, has stated that he believes the NCAA and ACC have ...
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