There hasn't been a legal challenge against it so far, but Upper Deck is putting its new distribution policy in front of a federal court anyway. Last month, attorneys for the trading card manufacturer filed documents asking a southern California district court judge to declare that the policy doesn't violate anti-trust laws. Blowout Cards and its parent company, Frontline Collectibles, have been named as defendants.
In court documents obtained by Sports Collectors Daily, Upper Deck states that Frontline/Blowout is looking to "seriously impede and frustrate" the policy with its public contention that anti-trust laws are being violated. "Plaintiff seeks a declaration from the Court rejecting Defendants' meritless and spiteful contentions, and declaring Plaintiff's distribution policy legitimate and compliant with anti-trust laws," state Upper Deck's material facts in the case.
It's a curious move on Upper Deck's part in that Blowout has yet to actually take any legal action against the California-based card maker.
Card shops and other online retailers have complained for years that Blowout undercuts them on price, making it difficult to turn a profit. Earlier this spring, Upper Deck announced it was creating a new 'authorized internet retailer' program in which only online retailers who also had a physical store presence could sell its products. Blowout is strictly an online seller and owners Thomas Fish and Chris Park have been aggressive in making as many deals with dealers and distributors as possible to offer what are typically the lowest online prices for new-to-market unopened boxes. The company has been active in marketing, social media and other promotions, efforts that have also led to its success.
Card shops have claimed they need protection from manufacturers to stay in business as more sales move online.
Fish has been openly critical of Upper Deck's new policy and says he offered to open a retail shop to qualify as an authorized seller, but was denied the opportunity to buy products. He claims the policy is aimed at limiting competition and restricting trade.
Upper Deck is asking the court to give the policy its blessing and prevent Blowout from interfering with its business.
UD Marketing Manager Chris Carlin has said Upper Deck is only trying to stay loyal to its network of certified dealers and the collectors who buy from them.
Blowout was supposed to respond to Upper Deck's court filing today, but the company asked for an extension to plead or otherwise respond
to the complaint because it has had enough time to consult with attorneys. Upper Deck agreed to the extension and Blowout will now be asked to issue a response by July 20.
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