In a landmark legal development, Panini America has taken a significant stride towards resolving a complex lawsuit by agreeing to a substantial $25 million settlement. The case, which had been looming since the previous year, was set to head to trial in September before this groundbreaking resolution.
The lawsuit was initiated by Hanlin Bavely, the Chapter 7 trustee for AAA Sports, Inc., the original producer of Wild Card Football trading cards. The focal point of the legal dispute was alleged copyright violations committed by Panini against designs from AAA Sports’ collection in the 1990s, particularly the iconic “Stat Smashers” insert card designs from 1992 and 1993.
Despite the tumultuous journey of Wild Card Football in the 1990s, facing disputes involving star players, NFLPA, and NFL Properties, the company declared bankruptcy in February 1994 while managing to retain its copyrights.
During the legal proceedings, crucial court records laid out side-by-side comparisons of AAA Sports’ original cards and Panini’s recent creations, spanning almost three decades. The core argument was that Panini had replicated AAA Sports’ “Stat Smashers” designs in their 2020 and 2021 Certified Football cards, as well as in digital formats.
The settlement amount, a significant $25 million, is intended to ensure a comprehensive recovery of claims for the estate’s creditors, covering nearly 30 years of accumulated interest. The decision to pursue a settlement was driven by the substantial costs and preparations associated with a potential trial.
While this legal resolution marks a significant milestone for Panini, it is essential to note that the settlement is pending approval from a Texas bankruptcy judge, given that the case was filed within this jurisdiction. This development underscores the intricate nature of legal battles concerning intellectual property in the ever-evolving landscape of the trading card industry.