Arthur Ashe Stadium: Retractable roof developer files suit against New York engineer and Indiana-based contractor for patent infringement, trade-secret violations

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Retractable roof system developer Uni-Systems LLC of Minneapolis, MN, has filed  a patent infringement suit against multiple defendants, including the United States Tennis
Association (USTA), Indianapolis-based construction firm Hunt Construction Group, Inc. and NYC-based infrastructure engineer Hardesty & Hanover LLP alleging that the defendants conspired to infringe upon UniSystems’ patents and trade secrets by planning to build a retractable roof over a USTA tennis stadium in New York.

The patent infringement suit relating to the Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens, NY, has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York (ENDY), IP Watchdog reports.

In the lawsuit, Uni-Systems is asserting two of its patents, including:

  • U.S. Patent No. 7594360, titled Lateral Release Mechanism for Movable Roof Panels (the
    “Retention Mechanism” patent). This patent claims a system for supporting a large overhead structural member for stable movement with respect to an underlying structure which includes both a transport mechanism and lateral release system. The invention achieves a retractable roof design which is compact, lightweight, mechanically simple, and more stable in extreme weather conditions.
  • U.S. Patent No. 6789360, titled Retractable Roof System for Stadium (the “Lateral Release” patent), disclosing a stadium roof assembly with a major truss spanning a distance of at least 200 feet between first and second support locations and a roof member secured to the truss. The resulting assembly is lightweight and less likely to interfere with the view of spectators within the stadium.

The complaint filed in the New York court says the story goes back to 2003, when, according to IP Watchdog, “it was engaged by Indianapolis, IN-based construction firm Hunt Construction Group, Inc., to develop and install a retractable roof for the University of Phoenix Stadium, the home of the National Football League’s Arizona Cardinals.”

The report continues:

According to a Uni-Systems web page describing the project, the company had to solve engineering challenges related to extreme hot and cold temperatures seen in Arizona and the decision to use twin translucent roof panels in the construction.

As part of its work, Uni-Systems delivered information on retractable roof maintenance to the Arizona Cardinals, information which was both proprietary and confidential. At this point, Uni-Systems alleges that Hunt began to conspire to obtain trade secrets behind Uni-Systems’ roof technology with the help of NYC-based infrastructure engineering firm Hardesty & Hanover LLP, another one of the defendants named in Uni-Systems’ suit. Uni-Systems alleges that Hardesty & Hanover won a bid to take over maintenance of the University of Phoenix Stadium. Uni-Systems alleges that Hardesty & Hanover took a financial loss on the bid but the firm was able to learn Uni-Systems’ trade secrets to develop their own competitive products.

Uni-Systems asserts that “it learned of the infringement in 2011 when it discovered plans to install a retractable roof system at Arthur Ashe Stadium, home of the US Open tennis tournament in Flushing, New York. According to allegations made by UniSystems, Hardesty & Hanover won the engineering bid for the work with plans to have Hunt Construction handle the building of the roof. Uni-Systems notified these and other defendants of its claims of patent infringement and trade secret misappropriation in May 2016 and filed the suit in ENDY when requests to resolve the dispute were ignored.

UniSystems also claims trade secrets have been misappropriated, violating (according to the court filings) confidentiality agreement violations.

The published report did not indicate details of any defence filings. The case has not been decided in court.

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