Michael Jordan Scores A Slam Dunk In China
Basketball legend Michael Jordan has scored an important victory for the enforcement of intellectual property rights in China. The People’s Supreme Court in China issued a decision on 8 December 2016 in favour of Mr Jordan’s claim that a sportswear company had infringed his trademarks.
In 2012 Jordan started legal proceedings against Chinese sportswear company Qiaodan. Jordan accused the company of misleading customers that their use of the brand was associated with him as Qiaodan is the Chinese version of the Jordan name. The sports company used the mark Qiaodan on its merchandise in China. Jordan also objected to Qiaodan’s use and registration of other trade marks, including the number 23 and the Jumpman logo, which is a silhouette of a leaping basketball player used by Nike to promote Jordan’s Air Jordan brand.
Qiaodan Sports had trade mark registrations which were over ten years old and Jordan applied to invalidate more than 60 trade mark registrations in the name of Qiaodan.
The Court initially rejected Jordan’s arguments and held that the name Jordan is a common surname in the US and that the name was non distinctive. The Court also held that the Jumpman logo featured a character which was not obviously Michael Jordan and that Chinese people would not immediately recognise the logo as Mr Jordan.
The Beijing Municipal High People’s Court upheld the earlier decision and Mr Jordan appealed to The People’s Supreme Court. Those previous decisions have now been overturned by the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court agreed that Qiaodan Sports had violated Chinese trademark law. The Supreme Court revoked the registration of the name Qiaodan. However, Qiaodan are still permitted to use the romanized version of the word Qiaodan.
A separate case between the parties concerning naming rights is listed to be heard by a court in Shanghai.
The case shows the importance of registering trademarks in China to protect against counterfeiting. After hearing of the decision Michael Jordan said “Nothing is more important than protecting your own name, and today’s decision shows the importance of that principle.”