SCOTUS Sacks NFL’s Claims of Antitrust Immunity

May 24, 2010 -

The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled against the Nation Football League (NFL) in terms of specific antitrust language, which emerged from a lawsuit brought against the sports entity by apparel manufacturer American Needle.

American Needle had charged that the NFL’s exclusive apparel agreement with Reebok limited competition, violated the Sherman Act and led to higher prices for consumers. American Needle further charged that an agreement between NFL Properties (NFLP) and Reebok did not allow the company to negotiate apparel agreements with individual teams.

In its decision (PDF), authored by retiring Justice Stevens, SCOTUS unanimously reversed a lower court’s ruling, and, according to SCOTUS Blog, “cleared the way Monday for trial of a lawsuit against the joint marketing of the right to use the teams’ logos and trademarks on consumer goods.”

The decision hinged around Section 1 of the Sherman Act, which dictates, “Every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, is declared to be illegal.”

In the decision, Stevens wrote “We conclude that the NFL’s licensing activities constitute concerted action that is not categorically beyond the coverage of §1 [Section 1].”

Between 1963 and 2000, NFLP granted nonexclusive licenses to a “number of vendors,” including American Needle. December of 2000 saw NFL Properties formed and a 10-year exclusive headwear deal for all 32 teams granted to Reebok. American Needle’s license was not renewed.

While the NFL had argued that “by forming NFLP, they have formed a single entity, akin to a merger, and market their NFL brands through a single outlet,” Stevens wrote, “An ongoing §1 violation cannot evade §1 scrutiny simply by giving the ongoing violation a name and label.”

A few more choice tidbits:

Although NFL teams have common interests such as promoting the NFL brand, they are still separate, profit-maximizing entities, and their interests in licensing team trademarks are not necessarily aligned.

It may be, as respondents argue, that NFLP “has served as the ‘single driver’’ of the teams’ “promotional vehicle,” “‘pursu[ing] the common interests of the whole.’” But illegal restraints often are in the common interests of the parties to the restraint, at the expense of those who are not parties.
 

As the SCOTUS Blog further noted, “The Court also did not decide whether the NFL did in fact act illegally in this specific marketing effort.”

If, in a forthcoming trial, it is ruled that the NFL did act illegally, LawsofPlay (earlier this year) outlined a scenario of what such a ruling could mean for the videogame world:

While this could lead to more competition in the sports gaming markets, it could also lead to really wonky arrangements–imagine EA releasing an NFL game with 20 NFL teams and a dozen or so fantasy teams to round out the roster while 2K releases a game with the 12 NFL teams missing from EA’s game and a handful of its own fantasy teams.


Thanks BearDogg-X!!


Comments

Re: SCOTUS Sacks NFL’s Claims of Antitrust Immunity

The NFL never had anti trust immunity I don't think.

The only two I can think of are Majore League Baseball, and the insurance industry, which was hopefully yanked, and I won't cry for MLB fi theirs is yanked.

Re: SCOTUS Sacks NFL’s Claims of Antitrust Immunity

I am with LawsofPlay here. It would be great if individual teams could market themselves to any company, I don't think it will translate as well for games.

Sure a single team could allow for more than one company to make a game using their logo and players, but who really wants to play Vikings Football. People want to play the whole roster of teams.

In the end, this might work out well for merchandise like shirts, hats, coats, bobble-heads etc, but not do much for games.

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
http://www.theeca.com/chapters_oklahoma

Re: SCOTUS Sacks NFL’s Claims of Antitrust Immunity

I don't think it'll work out too well for merchandising, either, since, as I understand it, the team owners wanted a single entity to make those decisions.  Now, they're being told that was illegal, forcing every team to do their own merchandising.

---

With the first link, the chain is forged.

--- With the first link, the chain is forged.
 
Forgot your password?
Username :
Password :

Poll

Will we ever get Half-Life 3?:

Shout box

You're not permitted to post shouts.
InfophileAnd the headlines-only part is particularly depressing, as in most sites, they're not even written by the author of the article. So the author has to field tons of complaints about what the editor decided to title their article.10/02/2014 - 6:25am
InfophileAE: Most people don't. This has been tested - I remember an article slipped in a request in the second-to-last paragraph to use the word "banana" in your comment if you read that. It took over 50 posts for a banana.10/02/2014 - 6:24am
james_fudgeprh99: Whether you agree with the article or not, fighting alleged censorship with censorship is hella lame10/02/2014 - 4:27am
james_fudgewhoever made that decision at Intel will regret it later on down the road. Boycotts are tricky business.10/02/2014 - 4:26am
prh99The unflattering characterization "They don’t know how to dress or behave." & "‘Games culture’ is a petri dish of people who know so little about how human social interaction..." probably didn't help.10/02/2014 - 1:52am
prh99Probably not many as it was purely a vindictive move. The headline alone was plenty of ammo, but for those that did read and complain..10/02/2014 - 1:42am
Andrew EisenI wonder how many of those who complain about that article actually read past the headline.10/02/2014 - 1:37am
prh99http://intel.ly/1tjh1AH http://bit.ly/1rGPHOY http://intel.ly/Zu6go9 it isn't surprising "Gamers are over" didn't go over very well.10/02/2014 - 1:34am
Papa MidnightCan you parlay that to #WriteAGawkerArticle? The cesspool of horrid crap over there extends far beyond Kotaku.10/02/2014 - 12:34am
Andrew EisenWow! Intel dropped Gamasutra due to GameJournoPros? Over Matt Matthews? The only Gamasutra guy in the group? Who hasn't written a single thing about #GamerGate at the site? Where did you read that?10/02/2014 - 12:32am
Neo_DrKefka#WriteAKotakuArticle "#GamerGate is responsible for breaking millions of Intel powered macbooks after angry SWJ hipsters slam them shut" or "How Toxic Processors from Intel causes sexism. "10/02/2014 - 12:15am
Neo_DrKefkaSo Intel has dropped Gamesutra due to there support of your Gaming News Cabal Fudge. Anti GamerGate article soon? Or like your e-mails are you hoping this narrative dies down soon?10/02/2014 - 12:14am
Andrew EisenWell, time to eat some dinner and work on the Hyrule Warriors guide until bedtime!10/02/2014 - 12:11am
Andrew EisenJust finished my stream. That... could have gone better. Technical issues prevented me from playing a console game so I instead played and bitched about The Walking Dead for two hours. Oh well, the folks watching still seemed to enjoy it.10/02/2014 - 12:09am
Matthew Wilsonwe all know valve can not cout to 3.10/02/2014 - 12:08am
MechaTama31Who cares? Gimme Portal 3!10/01/2014 - 9:38pm
quiknkoldAndrew : Mostly I decided there were better people who could explain what was going on, or fight any battles that may come up. so I decided not to talk about it anymore.10/01/2014 - 8:49pm
Andrew EisenI don't recall you promising that. GamerGate is not a taboo discussion here. Anyway, thanks for the link. Very interesting.10/01/2014 - 8:47pm
quiknkoldI know I promised to not talk about Gamergate again, but Intel just pulled sponsership from Gamasutra over it http://techraptor.net/2014/10/01/gamasutra-intel/10/01/2014 - 8:40pm
quiknkoldP.T. is a game I just cannot play alone. I puss out hard on it. need somebody with me when I play that. Kojima was right. it is Pants Shittingly Scary10/01/2014 - 6:17pm
 

Be Heard - Contact Your Politician