On May 18, golf tracking equipment manufacturer SureShot Golf Ventures, Inc. filed an antitrust complaint against golf giant Topgolf International, Inc. alleging that its 2016 acquisition of Protracer was anticompetitive, as it arranged exclusivity and foreclosed competition from the market. SureShot originally alleged antitrust violations in 2017, but the complaint and subsequent appeal were dismissed. This case is being held in the Southern District of Texas before Judge Andrew S. Hanen.
Protracer is a software development company whose technology tracks a golf ball’s flight path and displays it on video. SureShot claims that it chose Protracer “as its technology platform when it built its own unique game software, making the technology vital to its business model.” In 2015, the companies entered into a 5-year frame agreement allowing SureShot to purchase Protracer range sensors and license its software products, among other things. Protracer also “stated that it would not enter into exclusive dealing contracts with SureShot or others, meaning its essential technology would not fall into the hands of a single firm who would refuse to share it with competitors.”
Although Protracer claimed neutrality, the following year it was purchased by SureShot competitor Topgolf. According to the complaint, Topgolf “used its position as a monopolist to acquire Protracer, who had until then, expressed its intention to remain vendor neutral.” While Topgolf claimed it would license Protracer’s software only to driving ranges rather than entertainment centers, it eventually rebranded Protracer as “Toptracer” which “effectively ended any use of Protracer by outside parties.”
In the statement announcing the acquisition, TEG Co-Chairman and CEO Erik Anderson said: “This acquisition furthers our relationship with the professional sports organizations, and we will invest in this technology to advance our mission to create extraordinary sports and entertainment experiences.”
According to the complaint, Sureshot “closed its operations not long after Topgolf’s anticompetitive acquisition of Protracer,” and did not have the financial resources to develop its own technology. SureShot seeks treble damages as a result of Topgolf’s alleged antitrust violations. They are represented by Taherzadeh, PLLC.