Today we begin with the facts. In the not too distant past Ultimate Airball (UA) received their patent(s) on inflatable bunkers. (For more on that part of the story visit ProPaintball.) Not too long after that they announced they were back in full production and had reached a licensing agreement with Sup'Air. (For those who don't remember--or never knew--Ultimate Air made a heavier grade inflatable bunker than Sup'Air that came in a more limited variety of shapes and was promoted as a better all around outdoor use bunker. And one of the company's principles, Milt Call, was responsible for the Ultimate Madness 3-man tourneys in West Virginia back in the day and also the short lived WGN paintball show, Ultimate Arena Paintball. Seeing a pattern?) Unfortunately the timing turned out to have been inopportune as that was around the time things were going south in a big way and airball fields were less popular than herpes.
Returning to the present--and here is where the rumorology begins--UA is reputed to be on the verge of filing suit against Sup'Air for violating their licensing agreement--I know, another lawsuit in paintball *yawn* right?--but it gets better.
UA is also rumored to have threatened litigation on end users as well, big name leagues with three letter names anyway, that use Sup 'Air bunkers. (ProPaintball's story suggests the extent of the litigation may carry to other leagues as well.) That option is a viable legal strategy--they can include end users--in fact, it is the latest infringement lawsuit power play and often doesn't include the infringing manufacturer. The suits are rapidly becoming viewed as a ploy to squeeze money out of a larger pool of "violators" than a suit against a single manufacturer. And it is working. Litigation issues in patent cases are complex, uncertain and expensive and frequently mean that potential defendants pay off to avoid litigation even when they believe they're in the right. It does, however, within the paintball community context seem like a bad idea to sue your customer base.
Which brings us to the ironic portion of our story. Word on the street claims UA first tried to enlist the three letter league into a scheme where the league would promote and even broker sales for UA and, of course, use UA bunkers as the league's official bunkers. When the proposal was rebuffed then the litigation option was put on the table. You gotta love the paintball business, don't you?
JT Sports UPDATE: Brass Eagle--note the date. (h/t to Mick at T-Square for the link.) Plus Ballers Cafe has a statement posted regarding JT Sports' future.