Ripken Baseball, which operates the The Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, has been hit with a patent infringement lawsuit for its alleged use of a product at its baseball camps and clinics.
Zito LLC, which is owned by Arthur Zito Jr. of Swampscott, Mass., claims in the suit that Ripken Baseball is infringing on his patent through its use of the Fungoman FM-250 Automated Baseball Practice Machine.
Zito said his patent relates to a User-Specific Dispensing System that recognizes individual users and their preferences, and the technology is also featured in vending machines, gaming systems, etc.
The suit was filed Friday in District Court in Maryland. Ripken Baseball is based in Aberdeen, Md., and has a facility there as well as another in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. The 12-year-old Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach hosts baseball and softball clinics, camps and tournaments.
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“He has a system that infringes on my patent, and I believe he has used that system at the Myrtle Beach facility,” Zito told The Sun News on Tuesday.
The suit alleges Ripken Baseball uses Fungoman and methods for identifying user characteristics to adjust the machine for its Ripken Performance Metrics system.
“We are aware of the action taken by Mr. Zito,” said Ripken Baseball spokesman John Maroon in an email to The Sun News. “We will allow the legal process to play out without additional comment, but believe that the suit is without merit.”
Zito is asking for at least $150,000 in the suit. “That’s almost a place holder,” Zito said. “We believe there are millions of dollars in revenue in sponsorships and entry fees association with his camps and clinics.”
Zito alleges in the suit that Ripken Baseball has known of the alleged patent infringement since he officially notified the company on March 10, 2014 with the intention of becoming business partners and further developing the technology. But he said Ripken Baseball has instead declined a business relationship and continued to infringe on his U.S. patents – Nos. 7,398,921 and 9,443,369.
“Their opportunity to negotiate is there,” Zito said. “Certainly we have given them the option to cease and desist, which would reduce their damages. They have elected not to do so, which I think is an indication it’s important to them. We’ve tried just about everything we could to create a meaningful business relationship or resolve the issue.”