Tennis Stadium’s New Roof Brews Court Battle

NEW YORK, NY – AUGUST 26: A newly constructed partial roof covering Arthur Ashe Stadium is seen prior to the 2015 U.S. Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 26, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Heiman/Getty Images)

BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) – The self-described industry leader in retractable-roof technology claims in court that its trade secrets were stolen and used to build a roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium, the home of the tennis U.S. Open.

Uni-Systems brought its suit Wednesday against the U.S. Tennis Association and two companies it names as intellectual-property thieves: Hunt Construction Group and Hardesty & Hanover. It filed the complaint in the Eastern District of New York, just a borough away from Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing, Queens. A representative for the U.S. Tennis Association declined to comment.

The complaint notes that it was back in 2003 that Hunt Construction engaged Uni-Systems to design and install the retractable roof at the Arizona Cardinals Stadium.

Uni-Systems says it provided maintenance and repairs to the roof once it became operational, but that Hunt “determined to establish a competitor against Uni-Systems for retractable roof projects.”

The scheme required Hardesty & Hanover to take over maintenance of the roof, on a below-cost basis.

“To implement this plan, Hardesty & Hanover successfully offered to the Arizona Cardinals to handle the maintenance of the retractable roof at a financial loss, stole Uni-Systems’ trade secrets while acting as maintenance provider, and used Uni-Systems’ trade secreted innovations to develop its own competitive offerings,” the complaint states.

Uni-Systems notes that it takes careful measures to protect its confidential information, including requiring customers and clients to enter into nondisclosure agreements.

By conspiring with Hunt, according to the complaint, Hardesty & Hanover was able to obtain valuable insider information to which it would have never been privy without enormous investment in research and development.

“Indeed, defendant Hardesty & Hanover had never designed or built a retractable roof for any stadium anywhere in the world,” the complaint states.

Uni-Systems continues that “Hardesty & Hanover’s purpose for pursuing this loss-leading arrangement with the Cardinals was nothing less than theft: to steal Uni-Systems’ stadium retractable roof technology protected by trade secreted innovations to unlawfully compete against Uni-Systems in the stadium retractable roof market.”

After the U.S. Tennis Association announced in 2011 that it planned to install a retractable roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium, Hardesty & Hanover won the bid. Construction concluded prior to the 2016 U.S. Open.

“Throughout the U.S. Open tournament, the press and commentators praised the Ashe retractable roof to the millions of people watching at home,” the complaint says.

Making matters worse, according to the complaint, Hardesty & Hanover is eyeing antoher U.S. Open venue for its next project. This past June, the company allegedly sent out bid notifications to build another retractable roof over the U.S. Tennis Association’s Louis Armstrong Stadium.

Uni-Systems claims its “unique position and brand reputation in the marketplace is now and going forward very much at risk.”

A representative with Hardesty & Hanover said no one was available to speak today. Hunt Construction has not returned an email seeking comment.

Uni-Systems is alleging infringement, misappropriation of trade secrets and unfair competition. Also named in the suit are Rossetti, Morgan Engineering Systems and Geiger Engineers.

The lawsuit says Uni-Systems has designed and installed retractable roofs at Minute Maid Ballpark and Reliant Stadium in Houston, Marlins Ballpark in Miami, Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Cowboys Stadium near Dallas, and the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

Uni-Systems is represented by Paul Keller with Norton Rose Fulbright in Manhattan.