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Feed Techdirt: Supreme Court Says Antitrust Law Applies To The NFL; No Exclusive Licensing Allo (techdirt.com)

Earlier this year, we mentioned the Supreme Court was reviewing a lawsuit over whether or not the NFL had the right to have an exclusive license for its apparel. A company, American Needle, who had supplied apparel to various NFL teams, sued the NFL after it had entered into a long-term exclusive contract with Reebok to handle all team apparel. American Needle claimed that this was a clear anti-trust violation, as all of the teams had colluded to exclude everyone else from the market. The NFL argued, instead, that the entire league should be viewed as a single company. Today, the Supreme Court ruled against the NFL, saying that each team should be viewed as a separate company. The case then gets sent back down to be reconsidered: The details of this particular case are somewhat unique, in that it really only applies to situations where there are sports leagues (Major League Baseball is the only sports league that has an official exemption from Congress for antitrust issues -- though it's not clear why the different treatment). However, the decision by retiring Justice John Paul Stevens highlights the importance of competition, and the problems of letting organizations team up, just because teaming up makes better financial sense for all of those organizations:

Directly relevant to this case, the teams compete in the market for intellectual property. To a firm making hats, the Saints and the Colts are two potentially competing suppliers of valuable trademarks. When each NFL team licenses its intellectual property, it is not pursuing the "common interests of the whole" league but is instead pursuing interests of each "corporation itself," Copperweld, 467 U. S., at 770; teams are acting as "separate economic actors pursuing separate economic interests," and each team therefore is a potential "independent cente[r] of decisionmaking," id., at 769. Decisions by NFL teams to license their separately owned trademarks collectively and to only one vendor are decisions that "depriv[e] the marketplace of independent centers of decisionmaking," ibid., and therefore of actual or potential competition.
This makes a lot of sense. Otherwise, you could argue that any particular industry could set up an organization of which all the companies in that industry are a "member" and allow that single organization to negotiate exclusive deals, with the argument that it's "for the common interests of the whole." But, that's obviously collusion, with the intent to harm consumers. Thankfully, the Supreme Court saw through the flimsy claim that such a structure makes companies immune to antitrust law.

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Google

Submission + - Google Open Sources VP8 Video Codec (openvideoalliance.org)

soDean writes: Google, Mozilla and Opera announced a new open video format today called WebM. As part of the WebM project, Google is is freely licensing the VP8 compression technology. This new open video format will use a modified Matroska video container (.webm). WebM format support is available today in Firefox, Chromium, and Opera development builds. All videos that are 720p or larger, uploaded to YouTube after May 19th, will be be encoded in WebM. The Open Video Alliance has the full scoop.

Submission + - Researchers track cyber-espionage ring to China (computerworld.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Researchers in the U.S. and Canada have tracked and documented a sophisticated cyber-espionage network based in China, dubbed Shadow, that targeted computers in several countries, including systems belonging to the Indian government and military. The Shadow network of compromised computers was detailed in a report released Tuesday by the Information Warfare Monitor.
Biotech

Submission + - Judge Invalidates Human Gene Patent (nytimes.com)

gollum123 writes: A federal judge on Monday struck down patents on two genes linked to breast and ovarian cancer. The decision, if upheld, could throw into doubt the patents covering thousands of human genes and reshape the law of intellectual property. United States District Court Judge Robert W. Sweet issued the 152-page decision, which invalidated seven patents related to the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, whose mutations have been associated with cancer. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York joined with individual patients and medical organizations to challenge the patents last May: they argued that genes, products of nature, fall outside of the realm of things that can be patented. The patents, they argued, stifle research and innovation and limit testing options. Judge Sweet, ruled that the patents were “improperly granted” because they involved a “law of nature.” He said that many critics of gene patents considered the idea that isolating a gene made it patentable “a ‘lawyer’s trick’ that circumvents the prohibition on the direct patenting of the DNA in our bodies but which, in practice, reaches the same result.” The case could have far-reaching implications. About 20 percent of human genes have been patented, and multibillion-dollar industries have been built atop the intellectual property rights that the patents grant.

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