You know the first rule: You don’t talk about Fight Club. Yet a new federal lawsuit is forcing a conversation about fight club rings—namely, whether their unique designs are protected under intellectual property law.
BYB Extreme Fighting Series, a Miami-based provider of bare-knuckle fighting events, charges that rival Triller Fight Club has unlawfully infringed BYB’s triangular-shaped ring design. The complaint, filed in Florida on Nov. 18, also names streaming service FITE TV as a defendant. Triller Fight Club and FITE TV are both owned by TrillerNet. The complaint was signed by Florida IP attorney David Friedland, on behalf of BYB.
Last Saturday night, Triller’s pay-per-view “Triad Combat” event at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, utilized a triangular-shaped ring. The design, MMA Junkie explained, reflected part of Triller’s attempt to “to level the playing field between MMA fighters and boxers when they compete against each other . . . . Aside from the usual punching techniques, fighters will be able to utilize spinning backfists and superman punches.”
BYB and parent company Lights Out Productions see it differently. They emphasize their “Trigon” triangular design is illustrated in a patent, issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2017. The design consists of an equilateral triangle, ring posts and corner posts and has been repeatedly used by BYB in recent years.
Lights Out was also awarded a copyright registration by the U.S. Copyright Office in 2021 for “The Trigon – Triangle Fighting Surface Design.” In addition, the company has secured trademark registrations for Trigon’s use in “live stage shows and performances featuring boxing, fighting, mixed martial arts, and other related forms of art of attack and defense performed as sport.”
The distinct shape of the arena presents a unique branding opportunity that could enable BYB or Triller to stand out in an increasingly crowded combat sports space. Industry leader Ultimate Fighting Championship began using its Octagon fighting space in 1993 at a time when most fights were confined to a traditional square boxing ring.
According to BYB and Lights Out, Triller has offered “the public an event featuring a triangle fighting surface design that is so similar to plaintiffs’ design [that] an average lay observer would recognize that the triad combat design was appropriated from plaintiffs’ copyright design.” They contend the ordinary observer is being “deceived” and “induced” into buying live attendance tickets or PPV broadcasts under the false belief that Triller’s events are somehow connected to BYB. This practice, BYB and Lights Out insist, “is likely to cause confusion, deception, and mistake.”
Making matters worse in BYB’s mind is that these companies are hardly strangers. BYB and Triller officials, as BYB tells it, met to discuss the use of the Trigon ring before a “plagiarized version” would appear in triad combat.
Triller flatly disagrees.
“TrillerNet,” a company spokesperson told Sportico, “doesn’t comment on any matters related to litigation. However, we believe this lawsuit is without merit, and we will defend ourselves vigorously.”
In the weeks ahead, attorneys for Triller and FITE TV will answer the complaint and deny any wrongdoing. Not long thereafter, they’ll likely file a motion to dismiss and insist that BYB’s case doesn’t withstand legal scrutiny.
There are several defenses that Triller could raise. For starters, Triller could insist its ring is sufficiently different. The more Triller can distinguish its particular triangular ring in size, materials, dimensions and other factors, the more persuasively it can argue that no infringement occurred.
Likewise, Triller might maintain it has transformed the use of a triangular-shaped ring BYB uses for bare knuckle fighting into one designed for triad combat. As Rolling Stone recently explained, triad combat constitutes “a new combat team sport that incorporates both boxing and MMA rules, with fighters competing in a specially-designed triangular ring over two-minute rounds . . . Triller Fight Club Triad Combat will feature professional boxers competing against professional MMA (mixed martial arts) fighters in the same ring for the first time.”
Triller could also challenge the intellectual property protection accorded to Lights Out. For instance, a patent can be challenged on grounds that the design is not novel. Perhaps similar ring designs existed years ago and are part of the public domain. Triller can further point out that while sports broadcasts are copyrightable, sports themselves—federal courts have held—are not. Triller might maintain that no fighting organization can “own” the right to a ring since it is essential to fighting-related sports.
Judge Paul Byron is presiding over the case, which could eventually lead to a jury trial.
While the two sides litigate, they could work out a settlement. One possible arrangement: Triller agrees to pay BYB and Lights Out an amount that both sides find acceptable. A similar bargain would be Triller paying a license fee to use the ring. These are ideas that were likely discussed before the complaint was filed. Should the litigation drag on, they could become more appealing.