By Dr. Robert J. Romano, JD, LLM, St. John’s University, Senior Writer
On February 6, 2023, Arena IP, LLC, a company based out of Albuquerque, New Mexico, initiated federal litigation against two NFL teams claiming patent infringement for their misuse of its protected data communication system. The first lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division, against the Minnesota Vikings Football, LLC, with the second one being filed against the New England Patriots in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas, Houston Division.
As stated in its complaints, Arena IP, LLC, as of November 27, 2012, is the owner of U.S. Patent No. 8,320,820 (the ‘820 Patent), wherein the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted it protection for the invention of ‘self-contained data communication system nodes as stand-alone pods or embedded in concrete walkways and in walls’. But why would two pro football franchises, the Vikings or Patriots, need to infringe upon another company’s patented data communications system nodes – they have little or nothing to do with either removing snow or deflating footballs. The answer is that the ‘820 Patent incorporates a process that supports video and data communication systems that are used to transmit information to handheld devices (cell phones and iPads) located within a large area or venue such as a sport stadium, a place where the Vikings and Patriots regularly play their games.
Although most of the newer NFL stadiums have sufficient wireless capabilities, some, especially the older ones, lack the infrastructure necessary to support large scale access to live video through handheld smart phone devices with Wi-Fi and video capabilities. With several thousand sports fans attempting to access data in these older facilities during gametime, either one server or various servers located in a centralized location (e.g., production room), the result is frequent server failures or other data distribution issues. Arena IP, LLC’s patented invention, however, provides a system of pods that enable video and data to be distributed simultaneously to wireless handheld devices with little to no delivery or dissemination issues.
Arena IP, LLC alleges that both the Viking and Patriot organizations maintain, operate, and administer their own similar individual data communications system in a way that infringes upon the protections afforded by the ’820 Patent and are requesting damages under the doctrine of equivalents. This legal principle allows a trier of fact to find an infringement violation even though each element of the invention is not identically present in the allegedly infringing product or process. Specifically, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Graver Tank & Mfg. Co. v. Linde Air Prods., Inc. that a patent holder may invoke this doctrine against the infringing producer if its device performs substantially the same function, in substantially the same way, to obtain the same result. The reason behind the Court’s decision was to prevent infringers from stealing the benefit of a patented invention by changing only minor or insubstantial details of the claimed invention while retaining the same functionality.
But the question remains, why has Arena IP, LLC, a company headquartered in the state of New Mexico, filed its patent infringement claims against the Minnesota Vikings and the New England Patriots in the state of Texas? The answer – for whatever the reasons, the Texas courts have a history of being a friendly jurisdiction where aggrieved patent owners can go to settle their claims, even meritless ones, quickly and easily. In fact, the Longhorn State is responsible for hearing a large percentage of the country’s patent lawsuits, evidence by the fact that 747 patent complaints were filed in the four federal court districts in Texas during the first six months of 2020, double the number filed in 2019, and twice the amount of patent infringement lawsuits filed in any other state. That being said however, even with the ‘homefield advantage’ of the Texas federal court system on its side, Arena IP, LLC, a David of a company, will have a tough time going up against the litigious and deep-pocketed Goliath known as the NFL, even if its claims against the two franchises have merit.
 Civil Action No. 3:23-cv-00260-e, Document 1 Filed 02/06/2023.
 Civil Action No. 4:23-cv-00428-e, Document 1 Filed 02/06/2023.
 Civil Action No. 3:23-cv-00260-e, Document 1 Filed 02/06/2023 and Civil Action No. 4:23-cv-00428-e, Document 1 Filed 02/06/2023.
 Graver Tank & Mfg. Co. v. Linde Air Products Co., 339 U.S. 605 (1950), often referred to as the Graver Tank “triple identity” test for equivalence.