Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Oral Arguments Heard in American Needle v. NFL

The Supreme Court heard oral argument today in American Needle v. NFL, a case this blog previously posted about here.

The NFL argued that it constituted a single entity that can collectively license its merchandise and enter into exclusive licenses on behalf of all NFL teams, even if the result is increased prices. At issue was an exclusive licensing deal that the NFL entered into with Reebok, giving Reebok exclusive rights, thereby excluding American Needle, which previously sold NFL-branded headwear.

As reported by the New York Times here, the Supreme Court was skeptical of the NFL's argument that its licensing activities were entirely immune from antitrust scrutiny under the single-entity Copperweld doctrine. Justice Scalia, for example, asserted that the purpose of apparel sales was to make money, not to promote the game. This blog's previous post on the topic was similarly skeptical of the NFL's arguments, suggesting that the teams do not act as a single economic unit in the sale of team apparel.

A transcript of the oral argument is available here.


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