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Gold Medal LLC v. USA Track & Field

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

August 7, 2018

Gold Medal LLC, DBA Run Gum, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
USA Track & Field; United States Olympic Committee, Defendants-Appellees.

          Submitted May 8, 2018 Portland, Oregon

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Oregon Michael J. McShane, District Judge, Presiding Argued and D.C. No. 6:16-cv-00092-MC

          Sathya S. Gosselin (argued), Swathi Bojedla, and Michael D. Hausfeld, Hausfeld LLP, Washington, D.C.; Timothy P. Landis, Timothy Landis P.C., Portland, Oregon; for Plaintiff-Appellant.

          Derek Ludwin (argued) and Philip J. Levitz, Covington & Burling LLP, Washington, D.C.; Bruce L. Campbell, Miller Nash Graham & Dunn LLP, Portland, Oregon; Douglas N. Masters and Emily Stone, Loeb & Loeb LLP, Chicago, Illinois; Nathan J. Muyskens, Loeb & Loeb LLP, Washington, D.C.; Robert E. Sabido, Cosgrave Vergeer Kester LLP, Portland, Oregon; for Defendants-Appellees.

          Before: Kim McLane Wardlaw [*] , Johnnie B. Rawlinson, and Jacqueline H. Nguyen, Circuit Judges.

         SUMMARY [**]

         Antitrust

         The panel affirmed the district court's dismissal of a complaint alleging that USA Track & Field and the United States Olympics Committee engaged in an anticompetitive conspiracy in violation of antitrust law by imposing advertising restrictions during the Olympic Trials for track and field athletes.

         Following the analysis of the Tenth and Eleventh Circuits, and distinguishing a decision of the Fifth Circuit, the panel held that the Olympics Committee and USATF were entitled to implied antitrust immunity on the basis that their advertising restrictions were integral to performance of their duties under the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act.

         Concurring in the result, Judge Nguyen disagreed with the majority's conclusion that the defendants were immune from the antitrust claim alleged in the complaint. Judge Nguyen wrote that the complaint nevertheless failed to state a claim under § 1 of the Sherman Act because, even if the plaintiff could allege a plausible conspiracy and a viable product market, it did not allege that the defendants received any economic benefit.

          OPINION

          RAWLINSON, CIRCUIT JUDGE

         Appellant Gold Medal LLC d/b/a Run Gum (Run Gum) appeals the district court's order dismissing its complaint. Run Gum alleged that Appellees USA Track & Field (USATF) and the United States Olympic Committee (Olympic Committee) engaged in an anticompetitive conspiracy in violation of antitrust law by imposing advertising restrictions during the Olympic Trials for track and field athletes. According to Run Gum, the district court erroneously determined that the Olympic Committee and USATF should be afforded implied antitrust immunity on the basis that their advertising restrictions were integral to performance of their duties under the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act (ASA). See JES Props., Inc. v. USA Equestrian, Inc., 458 F.3d 1224, 1226 (describing the ASA) (Alarcon, C.J., authoring judge). Reviewing de novo, we affirm the judgment of the district court.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This appeal involves the statutory framework devised by Congress in support of the mission of national sports governing bodies to promote and finance the participation of American athletes in "international amateur athletic competition." 36 U.S.C. § 220503. Under the auspices of the ASA, the Olympic Committee exercises exclusive jurisdiction over "all matters pertaining to United States participation in the Olympic Games, the Paralympic Games, and the Pan-American Games, including representation of the United States in the games," and "the organization of the Olympic Games, the Paralympic Games, and the Pan-American Games when held in the United States." Id. at § 220503(3). With respect to amateur athletics, the Olympic Committee may "organize, finance, and control the representation of the United States in the competitions and events of the Olympic Games, the Paralympic Games, and the Pan-American Games." Id. at § 220505(c)(3). The Olympic Committee may also "obtain, directly or by delegation to the appropriate national governing body, amateur representation for those games." Id.

         In its complaint, Run Gum, a manufacturer of "compressed functional chewing gum" containing "a proprietary mix of caffeine, taurine, and b vitamins," averred that USATF, as the national governing body for the sport of track and field, "organizes and hosts the Olympic Trials, where the greatest track [and] field athletes in the United States compete to earn a position on the U.S. Olympic team." Run Gum asserted that "[g]iven the unique nature and infrequency of the Olympic Trials, the ...


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