The Panini v. Leaf case may be heading to a rapid conclusion. Last week, Leaf said, “Enough is enough,” and filed a motion for summary judgment.
Legal translation: It’s Leaf’s position that there is no evidence to support Panini’s lawsuit against it, so Leaf wants the judge to blow up the case. Now.
March Madness is starting early this year. Someone put 24 seconds on the shot clock.
Normally, motions for summary judgment are brought much later, after both sides have been locked into their positions and evidence. Leaf, however, feels that regardless of what offensive play Panini throws at it, Leaf’s defense will prevail.
I tend to agree with this play. Unless I’m missing something, here’s what happened: Before Kevin Durant signed his exclusive contract with Panini, he signed 750 stickers. No one has alleged that Durant’s signing of those stickers was in breach of contract, or wrongful in any way. Leaf then purchased those stickers on the secondary market. It appears that purchase was lawful also (at least no one has provided any evidence to the contrary). Despite all of this, Panini wants a court to order Leaf to deliver those stickers to it.
In its amended complaint, Panini explains its position:
is currently marketing the Best of Basketball Trading Card Series…As this series relates to Durant, Gray plans to utilize Durant autograph stickers he has acquired and “affix” the stickers on previously distributed Durant trading cards. To “append” the autograph signature sticker to a previously distributed trading card essentially creates a “new” Durant trading card. This is in direct violation of the contract between Durant and Panini.
Through Panini’s overuse of quotations, you can see that allegedly through “affix”-ing and “append”-ing these stickers, Leaf is “essentially” creating a “new” card that breaches the Durant/Panini contract.
I’m sorry, but, “So what?”
Just following common sense, Panini’s positioning shouldn’t work, and will barely allow it to get across half-court before eight seconds expire. A contract between two private parties should not affect property ownership of a third party that is not part of that contract.
Sure, that’s applying common sense, but since when does the law follow common sense? So, legally, who should win?
My bet is on Leaf. In Texas, if a third party acts within its own rights, that is a complete defense to a tortious interference with a contract claim. From what’s being alleged, that looks like the case here. The existence of the 750 stickers appears to be lawful, as does the purchase of those stickers. If so, well the purchaser can do whatever it wants with them.
In view of this, Leaf’s motion has very little downside. If it is denied, the case will continue just like it was going to anyway. And if it is granted, well, Leaf wins.
To stay in the game, Panini now has a limited window to heave its best evidence at the basket. Once it files its response, Panini’s shot “will be up.”
But will it be good?
Regardless, it gives us all one more “basketball game” to watch in March.
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