Updated at 5 p.m. with Schutt response
The country’s largest football helmet makers, Riddell and Schutt Sports, are once again facing off in a courtroom over allegations of patent infringement.
Chicago-based Riddell, a division of BRG Sports, filed a lawsuit Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, against its rival, Schutt Sports. Schutt, which makes football, softball and baseball helmets and other protective gear, is headquartered in Litchfield, Ill., about 55 miles northeast of downtown St. Louis.
Schutt fired back Thursday, alleging that Riddell violated patents.
Separately, Riddell also filed a lawsuit Thursday alleging patent infringement against another helmet maker, Detroit-based Xenith, alleging Xenith’s varsity and youth EPIC and X2E helmets infringe on its patents.
In its suit against Schutt, Riddell alleges Schutt’s Vengeance, ION4D, AiR XP, and DNA adult and youth helmets infringe on its patents. One of the allegations in the lawsuit centers on an attachment system on some of the helmets that allows the wearer to attach a faceguard.
Innovations in football player protection and performance “are the result of Riddell’s continued industry-leading investment in research and development,” Riddell president Dan Arment said in a statement.
“We intend to protect that investment by enforcing our intellectual property portfolio when competitors unfairly use our patented technology.”
Schutt, however, disputed the allegations.
“We believe the suit has no merit and appears to be a desperate attempt by a struggling competitor to attack the market while it faces product liability and other challenges throughout its business,” Schutt CEO Robert Erb said in a release. “In fact, we believe Riddell itself is in violation of certain Schutt patents and we will take action to defend our own intellectual property.”
A Schutt Sports spokesman declined to comment. Xenith did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In December 2008, Riddell sued Schutt for infringing on patents — different than those in the current case — with Schutt’s DNA and ION helmets.
A jury awarded Riddell $29 million in that case in August 2010.
A month after the jury’s verdict, Schutt filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and in December 2010, Los Angeles-based private equity firm Platinum Equity acquired Schutt in an auction for $33.1 million.
Schutt and Riddell agreed in 2011 on a $1 million settlement to resolve the patent fight.