Hunt for better football helmet, Riddell and Schutt face off in patent lawsuit – Chicago Tribune


The two largest football helmet manufacturers in the United States are once again facing off in court over patent infringement allegations.

Schutt Sports, of southern Litchfield State, filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against Rosemont-based Riddell for football helmet technologies. The complaint identifies a number of models, including Riddell’s SpeedFlex, Revolution Speed ​​and Revolution Speed ​​Classic, as using three of Schutt’s patents.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction restraining Riddell from using the patents without permission, as well as unspecified damages.

“Schutt continues to set the standard for innovative football technology,” said Robert Erb, president and CEO of Schutt, in a press release. “We take infringement of our intellectual property rights seriously and intend to vigorously defend our patent rights when competitors such as Riddell use our patented technology without permission.”

Riddell spokeswoman Erin Griffin said Friday the company is not commenting on pending litigation.

Riddell filed a lawsuit last year in federal court in Chicago alleging three patent infringements by Schutt. This case is ongoing.

The two companies have been engaged in patent infringement lawsuits since 2008, with Schutt filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2010 after losing a $29 million judgment against Riddell. Los Angeles-based Platinum Equity acquired Schutt at auction for $33 million.

Founded in Evanston in 1929, Riddell was based in Chicago for many years before moving to Rosemont in 2005. The company plans to move to Des Plaines next month. Its equipment is manufactured in a newly opened factory in North Ridgeville, Ohio.

Riddell is part of BRG Sports, which is owned by Fenway Partners, a New York-based private equity firm.

Although there is no official NFL helmet, Riddell and Schutt dominate the field and the broader high school and college markets. About 37% of NFL players use Schutt helmets, while 60% wear Riddells, according to the companies.

NFL players can wear any helmet certified to the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment, according to NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy.

With a greater focus on concussions and findings of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, in former players, the league released the results of its 2017 helmet lab tests to determine which helmet best reduced the severity of the impact to the head. Schutt and Riddell were well represented among the top performers, including several of the models named in their respective lawsuits.

The top performing headset, however, is a relative newcomer: the Vicis Zero1. The new technology developed by Seattle-based Vicis features a soft outer shell and an underlying layer of columns designed to reduce head trauma from crashes.

Some NFL players are expected to start wearing Vicis helmets this season.

An earlier version of this story misrepresented where Riddell made his helmets.

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