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.

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PHX Corphttp://kotaku.com/halo-mcc-esports-event-canceled-because-the-game-would-1700543158 Halo: MCC eSports Event Canceled Because The Game Wouldn't Work04/27/2015 - 10:15pm
Matthew Wilson@AE I know I was just stating where I stand on issues like that in general04/27/2015 - 8:12pm
Andrew EisenWho, Colin Cowherd? No one's suggesting he should be forced out. Or that he should commentate on video games.04/27/2015 - 8:10pm
Matthew Wilson@AE I do not think he should be forced ou though. he has his right to his opinion and shouldnt be forced out because people disagree with it.04/27/2015 - 8:07pm
ZippyDSMleeJim suggjested a pay what you want setup like humble bundel.04/27/2015 - 7:49pm
MontePerhaps they should just add a donation system for creators like the monthly pateron model. Only those who regularly make quality content can get compensated while those who would abuse the system are ignored04/27/2015 - 7:46pm
MontePaid mods is not a bad idea; i mean its only fair that makers be compensated and even better if they can do it full time. UNfortunatly there is too much that can go wrong and room for abuse04/27/2015 - 7:44pm
Andrew EisenYeah, working on that story now. Or rather, I'm working on finding time to write up that story.04/27/2015 - 7:40pm
Matthew Wilsonhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dll8eMJnTEE this crap is why sports fans and gamers dont get along. for love of god did I get sent back to 1995.04/27/2015 - 7:37pm
Matthew WilsonI do not think it will be the last time we see this. btw I am ok with paid mods.04/27/2015 - 7:10pm
ZippyDSMleehttp://www.pcgamer.com/valve-has-removed-paid-mods-functionality-from-steam-workshop/ 0_o04/27/2015 - 6:37pm
ZippyDSMleeMatthew Wilson:Humor and sarcasm sir.04/27/2015 - 6:36pm
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Andrew EisenNo problem. No idea what a mobo is but it's easy to overlook stuff in the Shout box.04/27/2015 - 4:18pm
ZippyDSMleeAndrew Eisen:Ah sorry, last 2-4 days I been dealing with a dead mobo then my new laptop came in trying to get it up to date and stuff transferred over....blag04/27/2015 - 4:16pm
Andrew EisenAlready linked about 10 shouts ago.04/27/2015 - 4:00pm
ZippyDSMleehttp://www.polygon.com/2015/4/27/8503893/konami-delists-itself-from-new-york-stock-exchange This just in Konami and Capcom merge so they can ignore more IP's.04/27/2015 - 3:50pm
E. Zachary KnightNot really. I think people are overly critical of other game projects. Delays should be expected and shouldn't be considered a major failing and worthy of the crap they get.04/27/2015 - 3:09pm
Matthew WilsonI agree that Double Fine gets off way too easy compared to others.04/27/2015 - 2:40pm
 

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