NBA Throwing Some Elbows in IP Game: Patent Licensing Co. Accuses Basketball Association of Infringing SMS Patents

NBA Throwing Some Elbows in IP Game: Patent Licensing Co. Accuses Basketball Association of Infringing SMS Patents

If all the lemmings jumped off a cliff, would you follow? Some might, but not the NBA. Helferich Patent Licensing, LLC (HPL) has acquired licenses from some very powerful companies, including but not limited to:

  • Anheuser Busch;
  • Amazon;
  • Apple;
  • Condé Nast;
  • Disney;
  • McDonald's;
  • Microsoft;
  • Motorola Mobility;
  • Redbox;
  • PGA Tour;
  • Walgreens; and
  • Wal-Mart.

The list notwithstanding, the NBA remains defiant by refusing to accept licenses on HPL's established licensing terms. Consequently, HPL recently sued the NBA for patent infringement.

Other Leagues Are Playing Ball with HPL

In a federal complaint filed on Tuesday, HPL alleges that multiple professional sports leagues have already addressed HPL's infringement allegations and accepted licenses with HPL. These leagues include at least:

  • the National Football League;
  • the National Hockey League;
  • the PGA Tour;
  • Zuffa (UFC); and
  • other major (though confidential) sports organizations.

These licenses have been negotiated to extend HPL's patents to the activities of the leagues' respective sports teams.

The NBA: Stubborn Mule of Major Sports Leagues

On or about March 28, 2011, HPL gave written notice to the Phoenix Suns, the Chicago Bulls and the Detroit Pistons of their infringement of patents 7,835,757, 7,499,716 and 7,280,838. Specifically, HPL accuses the NBA of initiating and causing numerous infringing messages to be sent in connection with at least the following product and service offerings:

  • alerts to the mobile devices of its subscribers via SMS messaging; and
  • messages sent through various social media websites.

The NBA continues to refuse a license on terms consistent with HPL's established license rates. This despite HPL's successful licensing to a number of major sports leagues and the Patent Office's alleged confirmation of various claims as patentable.

Though the NBA has yet to file an answer, HPL's November lawsuit against the Phoenix Suns demonstrates that the NBA might not back down anytime soon. On December 12th, the Phoenix Suns filed its answer in the lawsuit, asserting invalidity and non-infringement defenses/counterclaims.

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