In a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court held that the licensing activities of the NFL and a corporate entity the 32 NFL teams formed to manage their intellectual property constituted "concerted action" that is not "categorically beyond" the coverage of Section 1 of the Sherman Act, which prohibits a "contract, combination . . . or, conspiracy" in restraint of trade.
The case arose after National Football League Properties--the entity the NFL teams formed to develop, license and market their intellectual property--declined to renew the plaintiff's non-exclusive license and granted Reebok an exclusive 10-year license to manufacture and sell trademarked headwear for all 32 NFL teams.
Although the Supreme Court concluded that the NFL's IP licensing activities were not beyond the coverage of Section 1, it remanded for consideration of the legality of the "concerted action" under the Rule of Reason.
The case cite is American Needle, Inc. v . National Football League, No. 08-661 (S.Ct. May 24, 2010).