HOUSTON (CN) – A sports memorabilia dealer says Major League Baseball is illegitimately trying to stop it from reselling old baseball cards in team packages, which could cost the family-owned business $350,000 a year.
HLT&T Sports accuses Major League Baseball Properties of tortious interference and negligent misrepresentation, for falsely claiming that its resale of baseball cards violates the league’s trademarks.
HLT&T was founded in 1978 and began selling cards in team sets while it ran a concession stand at the Houston Astrodome.
HLT&T says it began selling team sets of Houston Astros cards in the 1990s, and asked Major League Baseball in 2000 if it would violate any trademarks or copyrights if it expanded its line to include all 25 teams in the league and sold them through contract vendors.
Major League Baseball said it would have no problem with such sales, so long as there were no MLB marks on the packaging, according to the complaint in Harris County Court.
HLT&T says that had it not been for Major League Baseball’s assurances, it would not have exerted “tremendous energy and expenditure in developing the product.”
Since 2000, the team packages have been sold at more than 15,000 Major League games and 40 World Series, without any objections, the company says. It says that its sets were included in the Atlanta Brave Christmas catalog and have been advertised on many stadium scoreboards.
The sets sold well and sales increased each year, even during the recession, but this year sales dropped dramatically, and HLT&T says it’s because Major League Baseball is trying to destroy its business.
It claims the defendant is visiting MLB Clubhouse Shops across the country and telling them not to buy the packages because they are not an officially licensed product of the Major Leagues. The Major Leagues also tell vendors that Topps and Upper Deck are the only officially licensed card manufacturers and HLT&T is not, according to the complaint.
HLT&T seeks actual damages of $225,000 for tortious interference and negligent misrepresentation, plus punitive damages and interest. It is represented by Steven Stewart.