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Court reverses summary judgment in mixed martial arts TV suit

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A dispute over idea misappropriation and civil conversion involving the origin of televised mixed martial arts through HDNET Fights was sent back to the trial court Friday. The Court of Appeals ruled that Marion Superior Court’s grant of partial summary judgment in favor of a sanctioning body that had suggested the development of a similar idea was in error.

Five years ago, the North American Boxing Council and cable and satellite channel HDNet exchanged a series of emails about the possible future development of weekly broadcasts of a mixed martial arts fight series. The parties didn’t enter into a contract, but the boxing council considered the information in the emails a protectable commercial idea.

The NABC sued in 2008 after HDNet owner Mark Cuban formed HDNet Fights. NABC alleged eight counts: idea misappropriation, unfair competition, breach of oral contract, breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, negligence, misappropriation of trade secrets, conversion of trade secrets and promissory estoppel.

Marion Superior Judge Thomas Carroll granted summary judgment to NABC on its claims of idea misappropriation and conversion of trade secrets, holding that the claims were not preempted by the Indiana Uniform Trade Secrets Act.

The appeals court ruled the trial court found in favor of a narrow reading of Indiana Code 24-2-3-1(b) that subverted legislative intent.

“NABC’s interpretation of the IUTSA would encourage piece meal litigation and would thus fail to implement the legislature’s intended goal of uniformity. Accordingly, we conclude that the trial court’s summary judgment order is erroneous as a matter of law,” Senior Judge Carr Darden wrote in reversing the court’s summary judgment for idea misappropriation.

Darden wrote on reversing the second finding of summary judgment that “NABC’s civil conversion allegation does not delineate a criminal act; it merely outlines another allegation of civil misappropriation of NABC’s ideas. Thus, the conversion action is not saved by the criminal law exception to the IUTSA’s preemption provision.”

 

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