Panini America Reaches $25 Million Settlement in Wild Card Football Copyright Case
In a significant legal development, Panini America has agreed to pay a substantial $25 million settlement to resolve a lawsuit brought against them by bankruptcy creditors linked to the creators of Wild Card Football trading cards. The case, which had been looming since February of the previous year, was set for trial in September.
The lawsuit was initiated by Hanlin Bavely, the Chapter 7 trustee for AAA Sports, Inc., the original producer of Wild Card products. The allegation centered around copyright violations that Panini allegedly committed against the company's designs from the 1990s, particularly the "Stat Smashers" insert card designs from 1992 and 1993.
Despite the challenges Wild Card Football faced in the 1990s due to disputes involving star players, NFLPA, and NFL Properties, it eventually filed for bankruptcy in February 1994. However, its copyrights remained preserved throughout.
Court records presented during the legal proceedings showcased side-by-side comparisons of AAA Sports' original cards and Panini's recent creations, spanning nearly three decades. The contention was that Panini replicated AAA Sports' "Stat Smashers" designs in their 2020 and 2021 Certified Football cards, as well as in digital formats.
The settlement amount, a significant $25 million, is aimed at ensuring full recovery of claims for the estate's creditors, encompassing nearly 30 years of accrued interest. The decision to settle was influenced by the substantial expenses and preparation tied to a potential trial.
This legal resolution comes amid a challenging year for Panini, marked by a break-in at their Dallas office, the departure of a significant number of employees to Fanatics, the NFLPA's announcement of ending its partnership with Panini, and a series of legal disputes with Fanatics.
However, the settlement is not yet finalized; it still requires approval from a Texas bankruptcy judge, the jurisdiction where the case was filed. This development underscores the intricacies of legal battles involving intellectual property in the ever-evolving landscape of the trading card industry.