LED displays

AIM Sport wins infringement case against Supponor over advertising technology

At the High Court in London, sports marketing and advertising company AIM Sport has won a finding of infringement and validity against competitor Supponor. The case involves LED displays for advertising used in sports stadiums, which is a growing yet lucrative industry. Last year, the plaintiff also achieved a major win in Munich.

7 February 2023 by Amy Sandys

AIM Sports, Supponor AIM Sports has achieved a finding of validity and infringement against competitor Supponor at the High Court in London, over a patent for sports advertising technology. ©kovop58/ADOBE STOCK

The UK High Court has found that London-based company Supponor infringes a patent owned by competitor AIM Sport, with the court also upholding the patent as valid (case ID: HP-2020-000050). The current ruling impacts all activities controlled from Supponor’s headquarters in London, with the company providing solutions for electronic perimeter advertising in sports stadiums.

This is the second blow for Supponor. The parties have also undergone parallel infringement and validity proceedings at the Munich Regional Court and the German Federal Patent Court, with decisions handed down in May 2022 and August 2022.

AIM Sport wins twice

EP 32 95 663 covers the “digital superimposition of an image onto another image”, which allows regionally-specific advertisements on LED boards. As such, when a broadcaster shows a high-profile football match internationally, it can adapt the virtual perimeter advertising to suit regional target groups. The broadcaster thus individually modifies the image on the stadium board, using digital overlays and infrared technology in the broadcast signal.

While the technology in question is relatively new, it is growing in importance. Some estimates put the market potential of virtual perimeter advertising at between €3 billion and €5 billion, especially since it may extend to audiences in other sports such as ice hockey or rugby.

Peter Fossen, CEO of AIM Sport, says, “We are pleased with the clear decision of the High Court of Justice. This is another important step forward in our efforts to protect the innovations and developments of our company. With three landmark and comprehensively reasoned court decisions on the validity of our patents, the finding of patent infringement by our competitor Supponor, and corresponding damage awards, we see our conviction confirmed that Supponor’s products are only possible by infringing our patents and copying protected features of our products.”

Supponor confirms appeal

According to a statement by Supponor, the company intends to appeal the decision. The next stage is a form of order hearing, which the court has scheduled for 5 April 2023. This will examine the extent to which relief will extend across Supponor’s product range, as well as determine the scope of the injunction and the potential damages Supponor will owe to AIM Sport.

Speaking to JUVE Patent, Supponor says it is, “disappointed with the outcome of this UK patent legislation and will continue to vigorously defend technologies we have pioneered, even though DBRLive is not in commercial use and was replaced with Supponor AIR® – a fundamentally different innovation based on software – before the start of the 2022/23 season.

Therefore, this patent litigation has no impact on Supponor’s ability to deliver software-only virtual advertising operations to the market and our business continues as usual.”

Parallel in Germany

In May 2022, Munich Regional Court found that Supponor also infringed the German part of EP 663, with the judges ordering the defendant to discontinue sales in Germany, pay damages, provide information and destroy the products (case ID: 7 O 13502/20).

In a parallel action against sport marketing agency Sportfive, the judges also ordered a ban on the use of Supponor’s technology (case ID: 7 O 648/21). They instructed the company to provide information, render accounts and pay damages. However, the judges did not want to pursue all claims by AIM Sport against Sportfive. Sportfive and Supponor work closely together in the virtual marketing of advertisements for Bundesliga clubs; Supponor provides the technology for virtual perimeter advertising, while Sportfive markets the ad spaces globally.

In mid-May, AIM Sport enforced the judgment against Supponor in relation to the injunction. But the opposing parties provide different information on the extent to which the court’s other orders were enforced. Prior to the decision, Supponor had lodged an appeal against Munich Regional Court’s ruling.

Ari Laakkonen, anti-suit injunctions

Ari Laakkonen

Then, in August 2022, the German Federal Patent Court fully upheld the patent (case ID: 2 Ni 2/21 (EP)). Supponor appealed the judgment.

Powell Gilbert step up

In London, Ari Laakkonen and Siddharth Kusumakar from Powell Gilbert are conducting the proceedings. The firm has acted for the company since 2020, when AIM Sport launched parallel proceedings in Germany.

In pan-European patent battles, the UK firm is mostly seen alongside German IP boutiques like Hoyng ROKH Monegier or Wildanger. Rarely has Powell Gilbert appeared with Noerr, which represents AIM Sport in the German side of proceedings.

Supponor engaged commercial and advisory law firm Ignition Law, which is based in London. Tammy Evans, who is head of dispute resolution, ran the case for the client. However, it usually relies on UK firm Appleyard Lees to file its patents.

Over to Germany

Noerr partner Ralph Nack is running both the German infringement proceedings and nullity suit for AIM Sport. Patent attorneys from Dutch firm NLO, which already filed the patent-in-suit, are assisting the Noerr lawyers. However, AIM Sport did not involve any German patent attorney firm in the proceedings.

Nack was already involved for AIM Sport in the battle with Supponor six years ago. Elsewhere, Supponor and Sportfive are also relying on a patent team from a national full-service firm. Gleiss Lutz partner Matthias Sonntag also represented Supponor against AIM Sport in the previous Munich-based showdown.

On the technical side, patent attorneys from Witte Weller & Partner in Stuttgart are running the proceedings. Gleiss Lutz and Witte Weller have worked together over a number of years.

For AIM Sport
11 South Square (London): Piers Acland
Hogarth Chambers (London): Edward Cronan
Powell Gilbert (London): Ari Laakkonen, Siddharth Kusumakar (both partner, leads); associates: Claire Robinson, Gabriella Simon

For Supponor
11 South Square (London): Brian Nicholson, David Ivison
Ignition Law (London): Tammy Evans (head of dispute resolution, lead)

UK High Court, London
Richard Meade (presiding judge)