Chinese sports company illegally used Michael Jordan’s name but did not violate image rights, according to Supreme Court rules



China’s efforts to honor intellectual property rights outlined in the first-phase trade deal with the United States appear to be filtering, at least in part, after its Supreme Court ruled in favor of six-time NBA champion Michael Jordan.

The ruling overturned two earlier lower court decisions, ruling that Fujian-based Qiaodan Sports had used Jordan’s name in Chinese, Qiao Dan, illegally, according to the verdict released last month.

The Qiaodan Sports logo features the silhouette of a basketball player and is often used next to Jordan’s name in Chinese. The logo resembles Jordan’s iconic Jumpman logo, which features a silhouette of the retired former Chicago Bulls shooting guard. perform a dunk.

The verdict, however, did not mention the profits Qiaodan Sports had earned from illegally using Jordan’s name.

Qiaodan Sports logo features the silhouette of a basketball player. Photo: AFP

“The Supreme Court verdict ordered that this logo be retried by the Trademark Office, but we don’t know what the retrial will look like, and we don’t know if Jordan will sue Qiaodan Sports again after the retrial,” said Xu Chendi, an attorney with Beijing Zhongwen law firm.

However, the court also ruled that the figure – an image widely associated with Jordan in the West – did not violate Jordan’s portrait rights, meaning Qiaodan Sports could continue to use it.

China is currently developing an action plan on intellectual property protection as required first phase trade agreement with the United States, which was signed in January. It is expected to address a number of US concerns, including trademarks and enforcement against pirated and counterfeit products.

Last week, China’s Supreme Court struck down two marks mimicking the N mark used by US athletic shoe maker New Balance, ending a ten-year dispute. New Balance hailed the verdict as “the most important precedent”.

The latest ruling against Qiaodan Sports is in line with the same court ruling in 2016 that a mark, which only contained Jordan’s Chinese name, was a violation of his naming rights.

The Supreme Court also ruled in 2016 that it was legal for the company to continue using the pinyin – the Western phonetic spelling of Chinese words – of the Chinese name of Jordan, both qiaodan and QIAODAN, but not the Chinese characters of the name.

Qiaodan Sports has registered around 200 marks based on the National Basketball Association’s five-time player since its inception in 2010, including Jordan’s Chinese name and the phonetic English version.

Last year, the company filed 12 new trademarks with Jordan’s name in Chinese, including “Qiaodan Superdry,” which are still awaiting approval, according to the Trademark Office of the State Intellectual Property Administration.

A Qiaodan Sports point of sale in Shanghai in 2012. Photo: AFP

A Qiaodan Sports point of sale in Shanghai in 2012. Photo: AFP

Since 2012, Jordan has filed 80 lawsuits against Qiaodan Sports, including for the unauthorized use of his Chinese name, figure, retired jersey number of 23 and the names of his two children – losing all time. occasions until the Supreme Court ruling in 2016.

Jordan argued that the unauthorized use of his name would suggest that he supports Qiaodan Sports. He also argued that their behavior was a violation of his rights before the trademarks were registered in China.

The Beijing First Intermediate People’s Court and the Beijing Higher People’s Court previously had ruled that Jordan was a common American surname and that Qiaodan Sports had not exclusively referred to the American, now 57.

It was also decided that it was difficult for the public to identify the figure as the image of Jordan as there were no facial features included in the logo.

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