NEW YORK (
) -- The National Football League lost its long-fought petition to be protected by antitrust suits when it comes to licensing.
The NFL has argued that the league should have protection from antitrust suits because it operates as a "single entity" rather than 32 separate businesses that are potential competitors.
But the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the league isn't immune to antitrust suits when it comes to licensing, even if the 32 teams sometimes work in cooperation with each other.
"Although NFL teams have common interests such as promoting the NFL brand, they are still separate, profit-maximizing entities, and their interests in licensing team trademarks are not necessarily aligned," Justice Paul Stevens wrote.
At the heart of the issue is a suit filed by American Needle against the NFL back in 2004. NFL struck a 10-year deal with Reebok, a division of
, which gave the company an exclusive license to market NFL caps and apparel.
American Needle had been making and selling hats with NFL logos since the 1950s and sued the NFL, the teams and Reebok after it lost its right to make the products.
While two lower courts sided with NFL, the Supreme Court has now reversed the ruling.
-- Reported by Jeanine Poggi in New York.
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