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MLB Properties, Inc. v. Salvino, Inc.

MLB Properties, Inc. v. Salvino, Inc.

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Published by Reid Murtaugh

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Published by: Reid Murtaugh on Jan 23, 2009
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02/15/2013

Major League Baseball Properties, Inc. v. Salvino, Inc. Southern District Court of New York 420 F. Supp.

2d 212 (S.D.N.Y. 2005) Key Search Terms: anti-trust, trade dress, Sherman Act, rule of reason, relevant market Facts Major League Baseball Properties (MLBP) licenses the rights to use MLB intellectual property on retail products. Salvino, Inc. was making bean-filled bears known as Bammers, featuring the logo of certain MLB Clubs. MLBP argued that Salvino did not request a license to use MLBP intellectual property. After learning of this, MLBP sent a cease-and-desist letter to Salvino. Salvino then brought a claim against MLBP alleging violation of antitrust laws. MLBP then brought trade dress, breach of contract, and unfair competition claims against Salvino. Both parties moved for summary judgment. Issue Is the MLBP’s licensing of MLB intellectual property a restraint of trade? Holding To prove a violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act, a plaintiff must demonstrate: (1) a combination or some form of concerted action between at least two legally distinct economic entities that (2) unreasonably restrains trade under a per se or rule of reason analysis. For conduct to be illegal per se, it must fall within the narrow range of behavior that is considered so plainly anticompetitive and so lacking in redeeming pro-competitive value that it is presumed illegal without further examination. MLBP’s role in licensing MLB intellectual property is not per se anti-competitive because it is not a naked restraint on trade. It facilitates the efficient protection and quality control of MLB intellectual property. Courts have declined to apply the per se rule to sports leagues where cooperation among competitors can under some circumstances have legitimate purposes as well as anticompetitive effects. Using the rule of reason analysis, conduct is deemed illegal only if it unreasonably restrains competition. Salvino failed to offer any evidence of MLBP’s actual adverse effect on the market or its sufficient market power. Thus, Salvino did not demonstrate under the rule of reason that MLBP placed unreasonable restraints on trade, so MLBP’s motion for summary judgment on Salvino’s antitrust claim was granted. Because MLBP demonstrated the nonfunctional nature of the Bammers’ trade dress and because genuine issues of fact existed with respect to the secondary meaning of the MLB Clubs’ trade dress, Salvino’s motion for summary judgment on MLBP’s trade dress claim was denied.

Summarized by: Leslie Adams

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