Schutt Sports Found Off-Sides in Argument Against Moving Suit to Illinois

On August 28, 2017, Eastern District of Texas Judge Gilstrap ruled on Riddell Inc.’s motion against Schutt Sports to either dismiss the patent infringement suit brought against it or to move the case from Texas to Illinois. Despite Texas being a proper venue for the suit, Judge Gilstrap ultimately ruled to move the case to Illinois because it serves as a more convenient forum.

In May 2017, Schutt filed suit against Riddell claiming infringement on three of its patents for helmet designs — U.S. Patent Nos. 6,434,755, 9,498,014, and 8,499,366. This suit followed Riddell’s 2016 lawsuit against Schutt for alleged infringement of its helmet patents, which was filed in the Northern District of Illinois. However, Judge Gilstrap explained that Riddell’s case in Illinois federal court had no influence on his decision to move the current suit to Illinois, as the two cases involve different patents and only implicate the same “general football helmet technology.”

The fact that Riddell employed two sale representatives who worked out of their homes in Texas was deemed sufficient to establish Riddell as having a place of business in Texas for venue purposes, though Judge Gilstrap noted that home offices may not always be enough to establish a place of business for a company. Additionally, while Schutt argued that Texas had a greater interest in the case because of the high popularity of football in the state, Judge Gilstrap found this had no bearing on the issue of venue as the same argument could be made for any state with a particular passion for football.

Ultimately, Judge Gilstrap decided to move the case to Illinois because witnesses and evidence pertinent to the case are located in Illinois, especially considering Riddell’s headquarters are located in Illinois. Schutt attempted to rebut this argument by stating the only evidence needed was a sample helmet, but the Judge pointed out that Schutt itself would be unable to assess the amount of money damages it should be awarded with just a sample helmet. Thus, unable to keep the lawsuit in Texas, Schutt will now be fighting both suits against Riddell in Illinois.

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