Technology is an increasingly important part of sports, not only in the playing of the games themselves, but in how people are consuming them. Fans have an appetite for more and more information about the action in the games they're watching, especially in the statistics-heavy world of baseball. Major League Baseball has invested heavily in tools that allow teams and fans alike to measure every action on the field, but a recent lawsuit is claiming that some of the developments might be ill-gotten.
SportsMEDIA Technology (SMT) is suing MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM) for patent infringement, theft of trade secrets and breach of contract related to what SportsMEDIA Technology is saying is a broken agreement between the two that resulted in MLBAM stealing their technology.
MLB had initially contracted with the SMT subsidiary Sportsvision in 2006 to build the Pitchf/x technology, which tracks the speed and movement of each pitch thrown in a baseball game. Pitchf/x was implemented in stadiums in 2008, and the company's contract with MLBAM was renewed until 2016, when MLBAM terminated the contract and the matter becomes more complicated.
In the lawsuit, SMT claims that the contract was set to run through 2019, and that MLBAM breached that contract in terminating it in 2016. In that same year, a SMT executive resigned and took a job with MLBAM, which then began to develop their own tracking system called Statcast that was introduced for the 2017 season, which SMT claims copies elements of their own and is based upon proprietary information the executive brought with him, the basis of the trade secret theft and patent infringement claims.
Pitchf/x and Statcast perform many of the same functions, but with slightly different technology; Pitchf/x uses high-speed cameras for measuring pitch speed, while Statcast uses a combination of cameras and doppler radar. But the similarities and coincidences surrounding the circumstances of Statcast's development and deployment were enough to prompt legal action on the part of SMT, given the length and cost related to patent lawsuits.