The two biggest players in the sports trading card space continue to deliver blows as competition for business grows stiffer and a legal battle gets messier.
In a rare win for Panini, the company recently extended its FIFA World Cup collectibles rights through 2030. Fanatics, though, has been taking other clients from Panini, and even got the NFLPA and WWE to end their Panini deals early in order to jump to Fanatics sooner. This week, Fanatics made its latest splash with a trading card release featuring Tom Brady on the Montreal Expos, the MLB team he never played for but who drafted him in the 18th round with the 507th pick back in 1995.
The back-and-forth has been accompanied by an antitrust lawsuit filed in August in which Panini accused Fanatics of violating federal law with its dominant entry into the trading card business. Fanatics has since countersued, saying Panini’s case is “not only legally baseless, but also hypocritical.” Fanatics also claimed Panini is threatening some of its current and former employees with litigation if they were to join Fanatics.
In the latest court filing on Dec. 8, Panini called Fanatics’ legal action a “public relations ploy” intended to lessen the impact of Panini’s original lawsuit. “The complaint is a screed consisting mainly of inappropriate commentary, argument, and derogatory statements directly responsive to allegations in the antitrust action,” Panini said. The company wants Fanatics’ suit dismissed.
A ruling in the case could come before the end of the year. For now, the trading card wars continue.