American Needle, Inc. v. National Football League, et al.

Date:
Citation Number: 08-661

Joint brief of the United States and the Federal Trade Commission as amicus curiae in a case concerning whether the National Football League and its member teams’ collective actions can be exempt from antitrust review under Section 1 of the Sherman Act, which prohibits unreasonable restraints of trade. The brief urges the Supreme Court to vacate the judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which had upheld a district court’s summary judgment in favor of the NFL and its separately owned teams on the grounds that they function as a “single entity” when licensing and marketing their logos and trademarks under an exclusive licensing agreement with Reebok International Ltd. The brief states that the conduct of joint ventures, such as the NFL, is generally concerted action under Section 1. In discussing whether a sports league and its member teams should be deemed to function as a “single entity” for purposes of Section 1’s concerted action requirement, the brief demonstrates that such treatment is only appropriate if two conditions are satisfied. First, the teams and the league must have effectively and legitimately merged the relevant aspect of their operations, thereby eliminating actual and potential competition among the teams and between the teams and the league in that operational sphere; and second, the challenged restraint must not significantly affect actual or potential competition among the teams or between the teams and the league outside their merged operations. In addition to asking the Supreme Court to vacate the judgment, the brief asks that the case be remanded for further proceedings and application of the correct legal standard for single-entity analysis.