The U.S. Supreme Court opened the way for greater antitrust scrutiny of professional sports leagues, reviving a suit over the National Football League’s agreement with Adidas AG’s Reebok to sell clothing emblazoned with team insignias.
The justices, unanimously overturning a lower court ruling, said the NFL and its franchises aren’t automatically entitled to act as a group in licensing their trademark rights. The majority said judges instead should consider on a case-by-case basis how the league’s business practices affect competition.
“The teams compete in the market for intellectual property,” Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the court. “To a firm making hats, the Saints and the Colts are two potentially competing suppliers of valuable trademarks.”