Tuesday, May 25, 2010

B.A.F.F.L.E.D. Legal Battles

Competetion on the Field and Off

Just when we thought the world of professional sports licensing was set to make a monumental change, it did! Although many speculated a change to rewrite trademark and logo licensing forever, what we got was the triumph of the little guy over the big company.

As previously reported, the NFL has been in a long legal battle with hatmaker, American Needle. The case involves a dispute over antitrust practices, which limit or prevent competition in the open market. The League agreed to an exclusive licensing deal with Reebok, giving them all rights to produce NFL apparel. This deal leaves all other sports apparel companies on the sidelines. Deals like this are typical in some areas of professional sports, in TV broadcasting for example, but not in the realm of team apparel.

Just the other day the Supreme Court of the US (SCOTUS) decided the Reebok-NFL deal does in fact infringe on antitrust laws, and sent the case back to federal district court. Prior to the high court ruling, the NFL had been granted clearance for their deal, leaving American Needle, a small but reputable company, with an uphill battle.

Clearly the hill was not too much for the hatmaker, and a mountain of success for the trademark licensing market.

We'll keep watching this one for the final score.

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