CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR
THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT
Argued January 13, 2010 – Decided May 24, 2010
The National Football league consists of 32 independently owned teams, and each team has its own trademarks, colors and logos. These 32 teams formed National Football League properties (NFLP) to develop, license and market the property of each team. In 2000 the teams allowed the NFLP to grant exclusive license to Reebok International Ltd. To produce and sell trademarked headwear for all 32 teams. The NFLP decided not to renew their contract with American Needle, INC and they filed suit claiming that the agreements between respondents violated the Sherman Act which makes every contract, combination…, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade illegal. (www.supremecourtus.gov) the respondents answered that they were incapable of conspiring within because the NFL and its teams are a single entity with respect to the conduct challenged. (www.supremecourtus.gov) The Districted Court granted respondents summary judgment and the Seventh circuit affirmed.
Justice Stevens delivered the unanimous opinion of the court. He stated that the legality of the concerted action must be judged under the Rule of Reason. The question they would have to answer is whether or not the NFL’s alleged activity must be viewed as that of a single enterprise and if there is a contract, combination or conspiracy amongst separate economic actors pursuing separate economic interests, such that the agreement deprives the marketplace of independent centers of decision-making, and therefore of diversity of entrepreneurial interests. (www.supremecourtus.gov) The NFL and their teams are substantial, independently owned and managed businesses. They compete against each other on the playing field but also for fans and trademarked