Supreme Court Case May Impact EA’s NFL Exclusive

A non-gaming case currently before the United States Supreme Court stands to have a massive impact on the video game industry.

The case is American Needle vs New Orleans Saints, et al. Should the Supreme Court find in favor of plaintiff American Needle, an apparel manufacturer, EA’s exclusive NFL licensing deal and Take-Two’s third-party exclusive with Major League Baseball could be found in violation of federal antitrust (i.e., monopoly) statutes. Such a determination would free other publishers to make games based on the NFL and MLB.

SCOTUSblog, which tracks happenings before the Supreme Court, reports on the case:

The NFL used to license American Needle to sell hats that bore the logos, the names or other insignia of pro football teams… But, in 2000, the NFL opted to solicit bids for an exclusive license to produce caps and other headwear.  Reebok won the bidding, and in 2001 got an exclusive ten-year license.  American Needle’s license was not renewed. So it sued the NFL, all of its teams, NFL Properties, and Reebok.

American Needle’s case was thrown out by lower courts… “The [Supreme] Court has stated, on more than one occasion,” American Needle asserted, “that application of the Sherman Act to professional sports teams is wholly consistent with Congressional inent…”

What happened to American Needle in relation to apparel is essentially what happened to Take-Two in regard to its excellent NFL2K series when EA scored its exclusive license with the NFL in 2004.

Attorneys for EA are clearly tracking the American Needle case. The phrase "American Needle" appears nine times in a transcript of arguments made by attorneys last November in Pecover vs. Electronic Arts, a class-action suit which alleges that consumers were hurt by EA’s NFL exclusive (see: Spirited Courtroom Argument Highlights Madden Monopoly Case).

SCOTUSblog reports that the Supreme Court has requested government lawyers to weigh in on the case.

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  1. 0
    PHX Corp says:

    I’m Rooting for the Exclusivity Deals to be dropped by the supreme court(That’ll Teach EA and T2 a lesson for hogging the NFL and MLB)

    Watching JT on GP is just like watching an episode of Jerry springer only as funny as the fights

  2. 0
    ecco6t9 says:

    This wouldn’t be a good thing.

    It’s the same as saying that McDonalds has no right to the Big Mac.

    Private Bussiness is private the last thing we need in this time is more branches of government saying what can and can’t be done, and guess what this works for these industries since the NFL,EA, or Take 2 haven’t asked for a bailout.

  3. 0
    Haethos says:

    I’d love to see these exclusive deals get dissolved. Take Two has done an awful job with the MLB license on 360, and I’d love to see "The Show" come to 360. 

    Bottom line is that competition creates better products. I’m all for that.

  4. 0
    Haethos says:

    I believe it counts as IP, but EA has exclusive deals with the NFL and the NFLPA (as well as the coaches union I believe); the former for the use of the team logos, stadiums, etc. and the latter to use the names of the players.

  5. 0
    insanejedi says:

    I don’t think that the EA+NFL or 2K+MLB suit would work out because it’s a temporary exclusive. On top of that, I belive for any anti-trust suit to pass through the product being tested must also prove to be necessary for moderen society. The previous anti-trust suits are on the following of two basis. Lack of competition+Need for modern society. With Oil there is an obvious need for that product in modern society, with phones there was a need for it in modern society, and for OS software there is a need for it in modern society. NFL and MLB does not fill this area, so I highly doubt it will go through.

  6. 0
    Harry Miste says:

    I think the use of the players, teams and logos for the purpose of a football-themed… thing… is protected by the IP.

    | XBOX LIVE GamerTag: Harry Miste | Steam ID: Harry Miste | PSN ID: HarryMiste | Needs a thesaurus. |

  7. 0
    PHX Corp says:

    I think the Supreme court Justices are going to make fun of the fact that EA held a monopoly on NFL games Heres the possiblility

    John Roberts: We the court has found that American needle has been found in violation of the Sherman and Clayton Acts and therefore we demand that the company should be split up

    EA & T2: We’re F@**ED, we may have to share the license of MLB and NFL now

    END TSG-esce courtroom reenactment

    Watching JT on GP is just like watching an episode of Jerry springer only as funny as the fights

  8. 0
    Michael Chandra says:

    "Every person who shall monopolize, or attempt to monopolize, or combine or conspire with any other person or persons, to monopolize any part of the trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, shall be deemed guilty of a felony"

    Hm… I guess they can make a point there. I wonder what statements those are though.

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