MLB Advanced Media, the league’s interactive and analytics branch, is being sued by SportsMEDIA Technology Corp. (SMT) for patent infringement, trade secret theft, and the breach of a contract that was signed in 2016. The 92-page suit, filed in U.S. District Court in New York on Thursday, centers around a contract that was originally agreed to in 2006.
According to SportsTechie, at that time a company called Sportvision (purchased by SMT in 2016) and MLBAM agreed to a contract to build and use Pitchf/x technology, which was set to expire in 2011 but which was then extended multiple times. There was a final extension in 2016 that was set to run through the 2019 season, but shortly after the contract was extended for the last time things fell apart.
Soon after SMT bought Sportvision (one could say suspiciously soon, if one were to speculate), a key employee reportedly left the company and was then hired by MLBAM. That employee then allegedly communicated to SMT that the league would no longer require their services or their technology, and that the league would be going in a different direction for the 2017 season.
During that season the technology began to be referred to as PITCHcast instead with MLBAM reportedly enlisting SMT competitors to work on the product, and therefore SMT believes that there was theft of trade secrets along with the way in addition to the breach of a contract that should have been in place for three additional years past the point when the two companies stopped working together.
One passage that stands out from the lawsuit is as follows,
“Over its 30-year history, SMT has never encountered an executive leader(ship) of a major us sports league behaving as if the rules of civility, professional conduct, us contract law and us patent law did not apply to their actions and behavior,”
That does not seem like a happy assessment of the situation from SMT’s side and as such this is looking like a suit that will be fiercely contested by both sides.
Statcast is a huge piece of Major League Baseball’s current direction of owning more aspects of their business in-house rather than contracting out as ways to own as many revenue streams as possible. Not to mention it’s one of the things that many fans now use frequently throughout the season and are now used to hearing about during games. But based on the information currently available they attempted to take things in house in a way that put them at risk of a lawsuit exactly like this one.
To make things even more interesting, the head of MLBAM at the time these events allegedly played out was Bob Bowman, whose name may sound familiar because he forced out of the organization in November due to extensive workplace misconduct. Those depositions should be a fun time for all.