OCTOBER TERM, 2009
NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is
being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued.
The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been
prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader.
See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321, 337.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
AMERICAN NEEDLE, INC. v. NATIONAL FOOTBALL
LEAGUE ET AL.
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR
THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT
No. 08–661. Argued January 13, 2010—Decided May 24, 2010
Respondent National Football League (NFL) is an unincorporated asso-
ciation of 32 separately owned professional football teams, also re-
spondents here. The teams, each of which owns its own name, colors,
logo, trademarks, and related intellectual property, formed respon-
dent National Football League Properties (NFLP) to develop, license,
and market that property. At first, NFLP granted nonexclusive li-
censes to petitioner and other vendors to manufacture and sell team-
labeled apparel. In December 2000, however, the teams authorized
NFLP to grant exclusive licenses. NFLP granted an exclusive license
to respondent Reebok International Ltd. to produce and sell trade-
marked headwear for all 32 teams. When petitioner’s license was not
renewed, it filed this action alleging that the agreements between re-
spondents violated the Sherman Act, §1 of which makes “[e]very con-
tract, combination . . . or, conspiracy, in restraint of trade” illegal.
Respondents answered that they were incapable of conspiring within
§1’s meaning because the NFL and its teams are, in antitrust law
jargon, a single entity with respect to the conduct challenged. The
District Court granted respondents summary judgment, and the Sev-
enth Circuit affirmed.
Held: The alleged conduct related to licensing of intellectual property
constitutes concerted action that is not categorically beyo