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The U.S. Tennis Association is suing Olympus Corporation of the Americas for $11.65 million for breach of contract, saying the camera company wants to get out of their sponsorship agreement for 2011.
Olympus and the USTA have been partners since 2003. In a 2007 agreement, they extended their partnership through 2013, including making Olympus the title sponsor of the U.S. Open Series of hard-court events leading up to the year's last Grand Slam tournament.
The contract allowed Olympus to opt out of the last two years of the deal, which it recently sought to do. But the USTA complaint, filed in New York last week and first reported Monday by Courthouse News Service, says Olympus also is trying to "prematurely" shed its commitments for 2011.
According to the complaint, Olympus wants to avoid paying $11.65 million next year because it says the USTA allowed Panasonic to infringe on Olympus' exclusive sponsorship rights - something the USTA says is "without merit."
The USTA's complaint says Olympus hopes to avoid fulfilling the contract because it is trying to reduce costs.
"It is unfortunate that the USTA has chosen to file a lawsuit against Olympus. The allegations asserted by the USTA are without merit and Olympus will defend itself vigorously," Olympus Vice President of Corporate Communications Elizabeth Sullivan wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "Olympus will file a detailed response to the complaint in due course. However, Olympus is not able to comment further at this time due to the pending litigation."
The complaint says the amounts Olympus originally agreed to pay in 2011 are:
-$7 million to sponsor the U.S. Open and Arthur Ashe Kids Day, which is held on the weekend before the tournament's main draw begins;
-$3.35 million to sponsor the U.S. Open Series and U.S. Open Series tournaments;
-$1.3 million to purchase advertising time from the USTA's media partners.
In addition to asking the court to make Olympus pay damages - or fulfill the agreement - the complaint asks that the court declare that the USTA did not breach the agreement.
"With great disappointment, the USTA has opted to file a legal action against Olympus Corporation of America to enforce the terms of the Sponsorship Agreement between the parties," USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier wrote in an e-mail.
"The USTA categorically rejects any allegation of breach by Olympus, and while we find having to seek judicial intervention regrettable, we also find it unavoidable," Widmaier added. "Having worked collaboratively with Olympus for a number of years, the USTA desires to resolve this matter amicably and to continue its relationship with Olympus in 2011."