WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court agreed Monday to take up a case that could affect exclusive licensing deals between major sports leagues and manufacturers such as Reebok International that have made millions of dollars through licensing deals for apparel and accessories bearing team trademarks.
The Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari to American Needle Inc., a manufacturer based in Buffalo Grove, Ill., which sued the National Football League, National Football League Properties, its 32 teams and Reebok in 2004 alleging a violation of antitrust laws when the NFL entered into an exclusive, 10-year licensing deal with Reebok in 2001.
At the center of the case is whether the league is a single entity that collectively enters into exclusive licensing deals without having an anticompetitive effect on the market or whether its 32 teams operate independently.
American Needle, which manufactured apparel and footwear for the NFL for 20 years, argued that “because each of the individual teams separately owned their team logos and trademarks, their collective agreement” with Reebok was “a conspiracy to restrict other vendors’ ability to obtain licenses for the team’s intellectual property,” court documents said.
In essence, American Needle charged the NFL, NFL Properties, the teams and Reebok with intending “to create a monopoly.” However, American Needle lost its case last year in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, which ruled in favor of the NFL.
The league, citing a 1984 Supreme Court decision that a “parent-subsidiary relationship did not yield anticompetitive risks,” argued that it functioned as a single entity when “collectively promoting NFL football by licensing the NFL teams’ intellectual property and were thus immune from liability,” an argument the appeals court upheld. The NFL and other professional sports leagues also act as one entity in negotiating players’ union collective bargaining agreements.
“We are pleased that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case,” an NFL spokesman said. “We look forward to the opportunity to explain why the court should confirm and extend on a nationwide basis the favorable rulings of the Court of Appeals on the application of the antitrust laws to the unique structure of a sports league.”
The National Basketball Association and National Hockey League filed “friend of the court” briefs in support of the NFL.
Reebok declined to comment on the case and referred all media inquiries to the NFL.
American Needle is hoping to persuade the high court that the NFL teams are independently owned businesses, not a single entity, and thus subject to antitrust law.
“The issue in this case is less about exclusive licenses than it is about when and what circumstances an independently owned business can agree not to compete and not be subject to antitrust law,” said Glen Nager, an attorney representing American Needle. “What the teams have done here through the league is agreed not to compete with each other. That creates antitrust problems.”
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye
“It’s passion that helps get anybody to a certain point and it’s what’s propelled me,” said Kith founder @ronniefieg, one of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables who are changing the face of retail, fashion and beauty. Fieg, who opened a Manhattan flagship on October 7, began his career at age 13 as a stock boy and salesman for footwear chain David Z. “I think staying true to [my] beliefs, hard work and passion have gotten me to where [Kith] is today.” See the rest of the 40 at WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
25-year-old @samweaving is about to break out this fall, starring in Netflix’s horror film “The Babysitter,” fittingly out today on Friday the 13th. That’s not the only place you’ll be seeing her, though — Weaving’s got a role Showtime’s “SMILF” and another alongside Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Though she’s got a full plate at the moment, there’s one role she’s got her eye on: Marilyn Monroe. “I’m a little too young at the moment, but it’s on my bucket list,” the actress told WWD (📷: @dandoperalski) #wwdeye
BFF's Poppy Jamie and Suki Waterhouse celebrated the launch of their bag line Pop x Suki at Nordstrom last night. "The line is really about our friendship, and how we are so different but complement each other," said Waterhouse. 👯 (📷: Katie Jones) #wwdeye
After designing the new @louisvuitton and @bulgariofficial flagships and a @chanelofficial boutique opening in Japan, @petermarinoarchitect has another project on his plate: The Lobster Club. Located in the Seagram Building, it’s the famed architect’s first restaurant project in New York, serving up modern Japanese brasserie-style cuisine. Bronze hues, bespoke material detailing, blush and chartreuse tones and a heavy emphasis on Picasso can be seen throughout. Mark your calendars for Nov. 1 for the much-anticipated opening. (📷: @clint_spaulding) #wwdeye
Did you know: @carlychaikin of "Mr. Robot" has been painting for about a decade? The actress, who plays Darlene on the show, is a self-taught artist who lists Salvador Dalí and Chuck Close as some of her idols. Chaikin told WWD that painting is a form of meditation for her — A much-needed one given the intensity of "Mr. Robot." See a piece Chaikin is working on at WWD.com (📷: @jilliansollazzo) #wwdeye