Legal Touchdown

Performance Designed Products, a video game accessory producer, recently partnered with the NFL and Harmonix—major deals that are changing the company’s future

Video games are big business. Large organizations like the National Football League (NFL) and other sports leagues understand this, capitalizing on the popularity of the interactive entertainment industry by increasing the ways they connect with this growing market beyond just partnering with game developers.

Say a Patriots fan wants to display their team pride on their Xbox controller while playing Madden NFL. Through a new partnership with leading third-party video game accessory company Performance Designed Products (PDP), NFL fans can now do so.

The partnership is a licensing deal that allows PDP to create team-affiliated faceplates for console controllers. The faceplates are interchangeable, much like a case for a mobile phone, creating a customized experience for the gamer.

This deal is one of two major partnerships that PDP has recently utilized. The company heavily relies third-party licensing deals to help differentiate the products it manufactures and designs, and PDP pays for the rights to use a company’s logos, such as Pat the Patriot, and PDP puts those logos on its products.

Though the company has its own in-house brand, John Alpay, PDP’s executive vice president and general counsel, says these agreements will help their brands, including Rockcandy and Afterglow, evolve and create more brand recognition. “Building a portfolio takes time,” says Alpay. “We’re trying to show that we’re not a one-trick pony with our in-house line.”

“PDP recognized the value of a legal department that’s involved from the beginning. This way, we’re allowed to be more reactive and responsive.”

Deals with organizations like the NFL and Harmonix give the company a kick-start and are steps toward PDP’s continued evolution to improve the product health frame, says Alpay. Making a partnership like this successful requires including legal at the table from the beginning.

Because Alpay is an integrated member of the business team, he’s able to understand the business ramifications while highlighting potential legal pitfalls. “That’s just corporate culture,” Alpay says. “PDP recognized the value of a legal department that’s involved from the beginning. This way, we’re allowed to be more reactive and responsive.”

Along with the NFL deal, PDP is working to create a new experience for the game Rock Band, which is owned by Harmonix. The company has also ventured into the publishing world, which is outside its corporate comfort zone. Deals like this are means for expanding and broadening PDP’s horizons. “It’s a green field for us,” Alpay says. “We’re going where PDP hasn’t gone before, if you will.”

The biggest challenges with these deals are that they are so new in the legal and business world, Alpay says, and paperwork is yet to be finalized. However, Alpay sees these two partnerships as a gateway into new relationships. Because this is the PDP’s first foray into partnering with leaders in the sports world, its success could mean expansion into other sports franchises. That means there’s even more pressure for the company to succeed.

Alpay has also had to consider intellectual property ramifications from these deals. In the past, PDP has been aggressive in filing patent cases, and Alpay must push these deals forward while maintaining brand protection. “There’s no rocket science to it,” Alpay says. “The way I see it, it’s more about executing on the fundamentals, like blocking and tackling in football. It’s about knowing when to defend and when to be on the offensive.”