Am. Needle, Inc. v. New Orleans Louisiana Saints, __ F. Supp.2d __, 2007 WL 2042764 (N.D. Ill. Jul. 11, 2007) (Moran, J.).
Judge Moran granted defendants, the NFL, NFL Properties and each of the thirty two teams (collectively the “NFL”) as well as Reebok International, Ltd. (“Reebok”), summary judgment on plaintiff’s Sherman Act antitrust claims, finding that the NFL acts through NFL Properties as a single entity for IP licensing purposes. For more than twenty years, NFL Properties licensed plaintiff to use various trademarks on its headwear. Plaintiff filed this suit after NFL Properties entered an exclusive license with Reebok, ending plaintiff’s license rights. Plaintiff argued that the NFL teams collectively, as well as in concert with Reebok, violated the antitrust laws by acting together through NFL Properties to license their collective intellectual property rights exclusively to Reebok (plaintiff argued that the NFL did not violate antitrust laws when it licensed to numerous parties, including plaintiff, through NFL Properties). But the Court held that licensing coordination between the NFL and its teams was equivalent to coordination between a corporation and its wholly-owned subsidiary. Because the Supreme Court treats corporations and their wholly-owned subsidiaries as single entities, there could be no conspiracy and no antitrust violation.