Panini America has filed a federal lawsuit, hoping to block World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. (WWE) from terminating its trading card deal more than two years ahead of schedule.
Late last month, Panini says it received a letter from WWE, indicating the pro wrestling behemoth was ending its deal with the Texas based card maker over a breach of contract. In court papers filed Wednesday, Panini says it was told it hadn’t given good faith efforts to utilize its rights to produce “physical trading card games” and “digital trading cards.”
Panini says WWE is asking to be paid the remaining the remaining years of contractual minimum royalty payments totaling $5.6 million
Panini claims it hadn’t breached the four-year agreement, which began in January 2022 and was supposed to continue through December 2025. The deal granted Panini the rights to produce WWE trading cards, trading card games, stickers and sticker albums.
“At no point did WWE identify any deficiencies in Panini’s performance, complain about a failure to launch certain products or engage in any particular activities, or protest about any alleged failures by Panini to perform under the agreement,” Panini’s attorneys wrote in the suit, which was filed in a New York federal court..
WWE’s move to drop Panini and take its card deal to Fanatics mirrors the efforts of the NFL Player’s Association, which sent a letter to sports agents earlier this summer, indicating it was ending its deal with Panini early and moving to Fanatics. Panini has also sued to stop that effort and has continued to release its NFL trading cards, although such agreements typically have a window in which products currently in production can be released.
Panini and Fanatics have also traded lawsuits over what Panini sees are efforts to hinder its current business and take over its NBA and NFL licenses ahead of their 2025 and 2026 expiration dates.
In the new lawsuit, Panini claims it has produced a sufficient number of digital WWE products and also says the “trading card games” covenant is covered by its “box wars” and “pack wars” events at trading card conventions. WWE may believe that “trading card games” need to be standalone products like Panini’s NBA Monopoly game rather than simple games or activities played with regular WWE trading cards.
Panini says it has paid royalties to WWE on sold products that are “well in excess of the contractually guaranteed minimum payments, dramatically expanding the market for WWE trading cards and stickers.”
Panini is asking the court to declare that it hasn’t breached the agreement and can continue producing cards without paying WWE the money it’s asking for.