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by Vault Law Editors | May 25, 2010


In a thorough thumping reminiscent of 46-10, hat maker American Needle and Jones Day scored a 9-0 SCOTUS shutout of The National Football League yesterday. The Supremes ruled that the NFL when it comes to selling branded apparel. On behalf of the unanimous Court, Justice Stevens wrote, "Decisions by NFL teams to license their separately owned trademarks collectively and to only one vendor are decisions that 'deprive the marketplace of independent centers of decision-making […] Directly relevant to this case, the teams compete in the market for intellectual property.” In other words, the League is an "unincorporated association" of 32 professional teams and not a single entity.  American Needle charged that the NFL owners conspired in limiting competition before awarding an exclusive 10-year contract to Reebok.

The case was a something of BigLaw appellate scrum. In addition to Jones Day’s work on behalf the plaintiffs, Covington represented the League, Latham counseled co-respondent Reebok.

Dewey & LeBoeuf and Weil Gotshal wrote an amicus brief in support of American Needle on behalf the players’ associations of the NFL, MLB, NBA, and the NHL, while Skadden weighed in for the NBA and NHL themselves.

-posted by brian


Filed Under: Law