SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
FASHION ORIGINATORS' GUILD OF AMERICA, INC., et al. v. FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION
312 U.S. 457
CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT.
No. 537. Argued February 10, 1941, -- Decided March 3, 1941
Certiorari, 311 U.S. 641, to review the affirmance by the court below of a "cease and desist" order of the Federal Trade Commission.
A combination of manufacturers of women's garments and manufacturers of textiles used in their making, who claimed that the designs of their products, though not protected by patent or copyright, were original and distinctive, sought to suppress competition by others who copied their designs and sold at generally lower prices. To this end, those in the combination systematically registered their designs and refused all sales to manufacturers and retailers of garments who dealt in the copies or would not agree not to sell them. To aid in effectuating the boycott, the combination employed "shoppers" to visit retailers' stores, established tribunals to determine whether garments were copies of designs registered, audited the books of its members, fined them for violations of its regulations, etc. In view of these things, and the power of the combination and its effect upon sales in interstate commerce, the Federal Trade Commission concluded that the practices of the combination constituted unfair methods of competition tending to monopoly and issued a "cease and desist" order.
1. That the conclusion of the Commission was based on adequate and unchallenged findings and was correct. P. 463.
2. Where the purpose and practice of a combination run counter to the public policy declared in the Sherman and Clayton Acts, the Federal Trade Commission has the power to suppress it as an unfair method of competition. P. 463.
3. A practice short of a complete monopoly but which tends to create a monopoly and to deprive the public of the advantages from free competition in interstate trade, offends the policy of the Sherman Act. P. 466.
4. A combination may be contrary to the policy of the Sherman and Clayton Acts though it does not tend to fix or regulate prices, parcel out or limit production, or bring about a deterioration in quality. P. 466.
It was the object of the Federal Trade Commission Act to reach in their incipiency combinations which could lead to these and other trade restraints and practices deemed undesirable.
5. Since the purpose and object of this combination, its potential power, its tendency to monopoly, the coercion it could and did practice upon a rival method of competition, all brought it within the prohibition declared by the Sherman and Clayton Acts, it was not erroneous to exclude evidence offered to prove that the practices were reasonable and necessary for the protection of manufacturer, laborer, retailer and consumer against the evils growing from the pirating of original designs. P. 467.
6. Whether or not systematic copying of the dress designs by trade competitors is in itself tortious is a question of state law; but even if tortious under the laws of all the States, that circumstance would not justify a combination to suppress it by regulating and restraining interstate commerce in violation of federal law. P. 468.
114 F.2d 80, affirmed.
Mr. Justice Black delivered the opinion of the Court.