A Montgomery County-based pickleball equipment company wants a federal judge to force the sport’s governing body to approve its paddles for competitive use, saying the USA Pickleball Association “relentlessly searched for a pretext” to revoke approval for the equipment.

Sport Squad, Inc., which does business as JOOLA, is seeking $100 million in damages. JOOLA, based in Rockville, is also seeking an injunction requiring the USA Pickleball Association to approve nine pickleball paddles it rejected and make them eligible for use in competition.

The company is suing the association on counts of breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation and fraud, where it alleges it was “tricked into manufacturing and marketing over 150,000 paddles that it cannot sell.” Certification from the association is a “de facto global standard” required in sanctioned events, local courts and Major League Pickleball.

In a statement, JOOLA said it believes the Gen3 paddles are compliant with the rules published by the governing body but felt compelled to take the issue to court.

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“We are disappointed that we were forced to resort to legal measures, but after pursuing multiple avenues in attempts to reach a mutually acceptable resolution, we believe the filing of this suit was both warranted and necessary,” JOOLA said.

The Baltimore Banner has reached out to the USA Pickleball Association for comment.

The lawsuit comes a week after JOOLA became the center of a prospective class-action lawsuit, where the plaintiffs are accusing the equipment maker of deceiving buyers into a “bait and switch scheme.” The plaintiff, which could represent a class of more than 5,000 people, said that JOOLA defrauded buyers who would not have otherwise bought the paddles that cost about $280.

The association initially said in September 2023 that the prototype paddles complied with their standards.

The company submitted additional paddles in November to make sure the market version of the paddles were “structurally and functionally” the same as paddles that were approved in the past. The association greenlighted the company to move forward.

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The paddles were a “smashing success,” according to the complaint.

JOOLA developed an edge in the paddle with a foam insert that created more speed, while giving players more control over their shots, the company said in the complaint. They manufactured over 100,000 between December 2023 and April, shipping 60,000 to retailers before their equipment went on sale for the general public. Professional players sponsored the paddle as part of their marketing campaign.

Then, just a few days before the paddles were set to go on sale, the association reached out to the company saying the equipment had violated design requirements. In an official letter to the public, USA Pickleball Association said it was decertifying the paddle due to an administrative error by JOOLA where the company had submitted the wrong paddles for testing.

The company said it submitted the correct paddles May 16. The equipment, the complaint said, should have passed testing “with flying colors”— but the company said the national association was “determined” to revoke the accreditation “at any cost.”

JOOLA resubmitted market versions of its paddles for testing and paid a fee for expedited one-day testing. Two weeks later, the association said JOOLA’s new paddles violated rules that prohibits “spring or spring-like material, flexible membranes or any compressible material that creates a trampoline effect.”

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The material was a foam insert along the rim that, according to the association, made the “exit velocity of batted balls too fast.”

Paddles also had an “impermissible surface roughness” that did not comply with their standards, according to the association. The company said the association “made up a new surface roughness rule to obtain a different result.”

JOOLA submitted a follow-up report May 31, outlining other paddles that had been approved and contained foam inserts similarly to theirs.

JOOLA said the association, in their response to the report, said they did not consider the September 2023 paddles “viable as a basis of similarity” testing. JOOLA also said it believes the association is trying to “protect other manufactures from having to compete” with their new paddles.

The company thought that the association was rejecting the paddles to be able to revoke the approval without having to provide 18 months’ notice, as required.

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Correction: This story has been updated to reflect when the company submitted the correct paddles.