Together Again: The FTC and DOJ Join Forces in American Needle v. NFL

Josh Wright —  29 May 2009

The FTC joined the DOJ brief in American Needle v. National Football League arguing that the Supreme Court should deny certiorari.  The brief characterizes the question presented as:

Whether NFLP, the NFL, and the teams functioned as a “single entity” when granting the company an exclusive headwear license and therefore could not violate Section 1 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1, which requires proof of collective action involving “separate entities,” Copperweld Corp. v. Independence Tube Corp., 467 U.S. 752, 768 (1984).

Here’s the FTC announcement:

The Federal Trade Commission has joined the U.S. Department of Justice in filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in the matter of American Needle, Inc. v. National Football League, No. 08-661 (U.S. S. Ct.). The case involves allegations that the NFL’s exclusive licensing agreement restrained trade, in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act, and unlawfully monopolized trade, in violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Act.

The joint amicus brief, which can be found on the FTC’s Web site and as a link to this press release, urges the Supreme Court to deny certiorari in this case, in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld a district court’s summary judgment in favor of the NFL and its separately owned teams on the ground 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 concludes that the case does not merit Supreme Court review because of an absence of a split among the courts of appeals and because it does not present an appropriate vehicle for ruling generally whether a sports league and its member teams should be deemed to function as “single entity.”