(Bloomberg) -- Baseball legend Cal Ripken Jr. dodged a patent-infringement suit filed by a former employee over a system to help analyze a player’s fielding techniques.
A U.S. appeals court, without issuing a formal opinion, on Friday affirmed a trial court decision that CRJ Inc. and related companies owned by the Hall of Famer and retired Baltimore Oriole infielder didn’t infringe the ex-workers’ patents for a computerized reader.
The dispute was over a system that employs user-specific information to launch baseballs and analyze how well and how quickly the player catches and throws them to another player. Ripken, who played shortstop and third base over a two-decade career with the Orioles, developed a Ripken Performance Metrics System for use with Fungoman machines at his baseball camps.
Arthur Zito, who worked for one of Ripken’s companies from 2014 to 2016 in a marketing role, obtained his patents in 2008 and 2016 for a way to automatically dispense items to a user based on specified criteria. He said the Ripken machines, known as RPM, used his inventions and demanded patent royalties.
A federal judge in Baltimore last year cleared Ripken’s companies of infringement, saying they didn’t use the patented inventions, which rely on a radio frequency identification reader. In the Ripken system, the parameters were manually entered into a computer attached to the Fungoman machines.
Zito appealed, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit heard arguments on July 9, issuing an order to affirm the trial court in just three days.
Ripken -- who retired in 2001 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007 -- still runs his camps, but doesn’t use the RPM system, said his lawyer on the case, John F. Rabena of Sughrue Mion in Washington.
“It was a pretty clear case,” Rabena said. “We’re very happy the Federal Circuit realized there was no infringement from the beginning. Mr. Ripken respects the intellectual property of others.”
On May 30, 1982, Ripken began the longest stretch of consecutive games played by anyone in baseball history, ending at 2,632 when he sat out a game more than 16 years later to earn the nickname the “Iron Man.”
The case is Zito LLC v. CRJ Inc., 17-1733, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Washington).
(Corrects spelling of name in headline.)
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