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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MaskedPixelantehttp://steamcommunity.com/app/251150/discussions/0/43099722329318860/ In this thread: Idiots who don't understand how licensing works.07/29/2014 - 9:20am
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.joystiq.com/2014/07/28/gaymerx-in-dire-straits-after-nis-america-allegedly-backs-out-of/ NISA backs out of GaymerX support, but it seems like the only people crying foul are GaymerX.07/29/2014 - 6:30am
Papa MidnightIt's not bad so far, but I am honestly not sure what to make of it (or where it's going for that matter)07/28/2014 - 9:44pm
Matthew Wilsonis it any good?07/28/2014 - 9:36pm
Papa Midnight"Love Child" on HBO -- anyone else watching this?07/28/2014 - 9:27pm
MaskedPixelanteNah, I'm fine purple monkey dishwasher.07/28/2014 - 4:05pm
Sleaker@MP - I hope you didn't suffer a loss of your mental faculties attempting that.07/28/2014 - 3:48pm
MaskedPixelanteOK, so my brief research looking at GameFAQs forums (protip, don't do that if you wish to keep your sanity intact.), the 3DS doesn't have the power to run anything more powerful than the NES/GBC/GG AND run the 3DS system in the background.07/28/2014 - 11:01am
ZenMatthew, the 3DS already has GBA games in the form of the ambassador tittles. And I an just as curious about them not releasing them on there like they did the NES ones. I do like them on the Wii U as well, but seems weird. And where are the N64 games?07/28/2014 - 10:40am
james_fudgeNo. They already cut the price. Unless they release a new version that has a higher price point.07/28/2014 - 10:19am
E. Zachary KnightMatthew, It most likely is. The question is whether Nintendo wants to do it.07/28/2014 - 10:12am
Matthew WilsonI am sure the 3ds im more then powerful enough to emulate a GBA game.07/28/2014 - 9:54am
Sleaker@IanC - while the processor is effectively the same or very similar, the issue is how they setup the peripheral hardware. It would probably require creating some kind of emulation for the 3DS to handle interfacing with the audio and input methods for GBA07/28/2014 - 9:30am
Sleaker@EZK - hmmm, that makes sense. I could have sworn I had played GB/GBC games on it too though (emud of course)07/28/2014 - 9:23am
E. Zachary KnightSleaker, the DS has a built in GBA chipset in the system. That is why it played GBA games. The GBA had a seperate chipset for GB and GBColor games. The DS did not have that GB/GBC chipset and that is why the DS could not play GB and GBC games.07/28/2014 - 7:25am
IanCI dont think Nintendo ever gave reason why GBA games a reason why GBA games aren't on the 3DS eshop. The 3DS uses chips that are backwards compatable with the GBA ob GBA processor, after all.07/28/2014 - 6:46am
Sleakerhmmm that's odd I could play GBA games natively in my original DS.07/28/2014 - 1:39am
Matthew Wilsonbasically "we do not want to put these games on a system more then 10 people own" just joking07/27/2014 - 8:13pm
MaskedPixelanteSomething, something, the 3DS can't properly emulate GBA games and it was a massive struggle to get the ambassador games running properly.07/27/2014 - 8:06pm
Andrew EisenIdeally, you'd be able to play such games on either platform but until that time, I think Nintendo's using the exclusivity in an attempt to further drive Wii U sales.07/27/2014 - 7:21pm
 

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