American Needle and a “Positive” Quick Look Approach in Challenges To Joint Ventures
In American Needle v. National Football League, the Supreme Court limited the “single entity” arguments that joint venture defendants may use to defend against claims brought under Section 1 of the Sherman Act. In particular, the Court held that if the conduct in question joined together “separate economic actors pursuing separate economic interests” such that it “deprives the market of independent centers of decision-making,” then it is generally collective conduct that is subject to Section 1 scrutiny. In those instances, Section 1 claims against joint venture defendants will typically be analyzed under the rule of reason. The Court emphasized, however, that the rule of reason standard is “flexible” and that joint ventures need not be “trapped by antitrust law.” Indeed, the Court explained that application of the rule of reason “may not require a detailed analysis; it ‘can sometimes be applied in the twinkling of an eye,’” depending on the circumstances.