At a hearing on Thursday, December 3, 2015, U.S. District Judge Vince Chabbria indicated that he is likely to dismiss an antitrust lawsuit brought by professional caddies against PGA Tour, Inc.
In February 2015, professional caddie Mike Hicks and 81 others filed a class-action antitrust suit against the PGA Tour in a California federal court, alleging the Tour’s misappropriation of their “likeness and images in commercial activities.” The caddies seek for a share of revenue flowing in from caddies wearing bibs that display sponsors’ logos, which amounts to $50 million per year. According to the suit, the caddies allege that they “are made to serve as billboards to advertise, at the direction of the PGA Tour, for some of the most profitable companies in the word without compensation.” The caddies rely on specific language of the contracts between the parties, where it expressly states that the Tour does not own or employ the caddies’ “likeness or clothing.”
In August, the PGA Tour filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the plaintiffs have failed to allege a “relevant market” that the PGA Tour is controlling. Judge Chabbria appears to agree, stating at Thursday’s hearing on the motion to dismiss that he was trying to determine whether the caddies “have a week case, or no case.” The judge stated that “it does not seem plausible that on-screen endorsements aren’t interchangeable with other forms of advertising during a golf game, or that it’s so much more desirable that it has to be distinct.”