Nike has been slapped with a 12.5 million euro, or $14.15 million, fine for restricting cross-border sales of merchandise of some of Europe’s most recognized soccer teams.
The European Commission today revealed the findings on an investigation which focused on the sportswear giant’s role as a licensor for the making and distribution of merchandise featuring soccer clubs’ and federations’ branding, not Nike’s own trademarks. The company is said to have included clauses in contracts that threatened to end its agreements with licensees if they chose to sell out-of-territory and prohibited licensees from supplying these products to retailers that were selling in other countries in the European Economic Area.
Nike’s activities, which took place between 2004 and 2017, involved the licensed merchandise of clubs such as FC Barcelona, Manchester United, Juventus, Inter Milan and AS Roma, as well as national federations like the French Football Federation. It serves as a licensor of intellectual property rights, granting permission to third parties for the manufacturing and distribution of “licensed merchandise” products, which include bags, mugs, stationery and toys.
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According to the commission, the company’s actions stripped soccer fans in other countries of the opportunity to buy their clubs’ own merchandise.
“Football fans often cherish branded products from their favorite teams, such as jerseys or scarves. Nike prevented many of its licensees from selling these branded products in a different country leading to less choice and higher prices for consumers,” explained commissioner Margrethe Vestager.
She continued: “This is illegal under EU antitrust rules. Today’s decision makes sure that retailers and consumers can take full advantage of one of the main benefits of the single market: the ability to shop around Europe for a larger variety of products and for the best deals.”
The sanction comes after a two-year antitrust investigation of the Beaverton, Ore.-based brand by the commission, which oversees various policies in the 28-member bloc. Due to its cooperation with the case, the company saw its fine cut down by 40 percent.
Nike has not immediately responded to FN’s request for comment.
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