Michael Jordan, formerly of the Chicago Bulls, and widely hailed to be the most iconic basketball player of all time, recently lost a trade mark suit against Qiaodon Sports in the Beijing Municipal High People's Court in China.
Michael Jordan is well known for his playing number "23", for the iconic "Jump Man" logo and the "Air Jordan" brand.
Qiaodan, pronounced "chee-ow dahn", is a Mandarin transliteration of the name "Jordan" that has been used to refer to the former Chicago Bulls player in China since the 1980s.
Michael Jordan initially brought an action against the sports brand Qiaodon Sports in 2012, alleging the misuse of his mark with the company taking his Chinese name, his team number 23 and was using jumping man logo to sell and market products, misleading consumers in China to believe that their existed a commercial link between the two parties.
Two court decisions had previously favoured Qiaodon Sports, which prompted Michael Jordan's unsuccessful appeal of the lower court decision in the Beijing Municipal High People's Court.
In finding for Qiaodan Sports, the Beijing Municipal High People's Court held that "Qiaodan" was not held to be distinctive enough in China as it was only a surname, and at that, a common American surname. With regard to the Jump Man logo, it was held that the logo was a faceless silhouette and therefore difficult for the relevant public to recognise the image as Michael Jordan.
In essence, the Court held that one of sports' most iconic figures was not sufficiently famous in China to allow the right to enjoy the personal reputation of their name.
Whilst Michael Jordan's legal team are likely to appeal the decision in the Supreme People Court, the difficulty faced by Michael Jordan is a lesson that other sporting icons and celebrities need to heed with regard to opposing registered marks in China.Posted by: in: EU/International, News, Trade Marks