Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Company tied to Rays accused of taking digital autograph-signing idea

ST. PETERSBURG — When a company with close ties to the Tampa Bay Rays announced plans for an innovative autograph-signing business last month, local businessman Tom Waters couldn't believe it.

The reason? He and a partner came up with the idea first, according to a lawsuit filed this week in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court.

The lawsuit says Waters discussed his plan and technology with Rays official Brian Auld. Waters and Auld signed a confidentiality agreement, according to the lawsuit.

But after negotiations with Rays officials broke down, "they went out and did it on their own," Waters said in an interview Wednesday.

The lawsuit is an early problem for Egraphs, a company led by Auld and his brother David that debuted last month with much fanfare. Egraphs is marketing personalized, digital autographs — a kind of online version of the time-honored shoebox full of baseball cards.

So if you want a nice photo of David Price of the Rays or David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox, you can select the image, which will come along with a digitally added, authenticated signature, and possibly a personal message. The images also can be sent via email so fans can display them on their phones or tablet devices. They cost about $50.

Auld, the Rays vice president for business operations, was credited with coming up with the idea with help from his brother. Former Rays outfielder Gabe Kapler is Egraphs' director of business development and Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg is an investor.

But the lawsuit says that Waters and his partner, Robert Barrett, already had been discussing such a plan, and that Auld was part of those discussions. Attached to the lawsuit is what appears to be a confidentiality agreement signed by Auld, and emails back and forth.

In one email purportedly from Auld, he dissuades Waters from taking the idea directly to Major League Baseball, but suggests some other ideas for working with the Rays.

"For example, I think we can line up a digital signature session for one of our star players through Twitter. We could prove that there's a market for this product and possibly generate some more publicity," he says.

Egraphs officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Rays spokesman Rick Vaughn said the Rays don't comment on ongoing legal matters.

The lawsuit accuses team officials of misleading the partners and "misappropriating" their technology and ideas. It asks the court to stop the defendants from using the company's techniques, and also seeks unspecified damages.

Waters said he and Barrett developed the idea after Waters wanted a way to sign ebooks he had written. Waters said he works in the intelligence field, including previously working for the CIA.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Curtis Krueger can be reached at ckrueger@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8232. Follow him on Twitter at @ckruegertimes.

Company tied to Rays accused of taking digital autograph-signing idea 08/15/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 15, 2012 11:57pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Death toll, humanitarian crisis grow in Puerto Rico

    World

    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A humanitarian crisis grew Saturday in Puerto Rico as towns were left without fresh water, fuel, power or phone service following Hurricane Maria's devastating passage across the island.

    Crew members assess electrical lines in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria on Friday in Puerto Rico. Mobile communications systems are being flown in but “it’s going to take a while.”
  2. N. Korea says strike against U.S. mainland is 'inevitable'

    World

    North Korea's foreign minister warned Saturday that a strike against the U.S. mainland is "inevitable" because President Donald Trump mocked leader Kim Jong Un with the belittling nickname "little rocketman."

  3. All-eyes photo gallery: Florida State Seminoles loss to the N.C. State Wolfpack

    News

    View a gallery of images from the Florida State Seminoles 27-21 loss to the N.C. State Wolfpack Saturday in Tallahassee. The Seminoles will face Wake Forest on Saturday, Sept. 30 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

    Florida State Seminoles fans sing the fight song during the Florida State Seminoles game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack on September 23, 2017, at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla.  At the half, North Carolina State Wolfpack 17, Florida State Seminoles 10.
  4. Helicopter, small aircraft collide at Clearwater Air Park

    News

    CLEARWATER — Two people suffered minor injuries after a helicopter and a small aircraft collided late Saturday afternoon at Clearwater Air Park, 1000 N Hercules Ave.

    Clearwater Fire Department emergency personal douse a plane with fire retardant after the plane crashed into a helicopter at Clearwater Air Park 1000 N Hercules Ave. Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017. According to Clearwater Fire two people sustained minor injuries. [Photo by Clearwater Fire Department]
  5. 4-year-old girl, man injured in Clearwater Beach boating crash

    Briefs

    A 4-year-old girl was airlifted with serious injuries after a personal watercraft she was riding on collided with a boat in the Intracoastal Waterway near Clearwater Beach just before 5 p.m. Saturday afternoon.