In a long and storied professional basketball career resulting in six NBA championships and five Most Valuable Player awards, former Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan was known for his fierce competitiveness and merciless demeanour both on and off the court.
His status as one of the most decorated players in sport’s history was deftly managed into an iconic sportswear brand in the years following his successful career. The famous “Jumpman” logo and the “Jordan” brand, owned by the American sportswear giant Nike, Inc., are trademarks recognized worldwide for their association with Mr. Jordan’s unparalleled athletic grace and determination.
As many vanquished opponents can attest, Michael Jordan certainly doesn’t like to lose and even his most ardent detractors would have to admit that losing is an experience he is not well-acquainted with!
Mr. Jordan recently continued his winning ways in a Chinese courtroom with a recent decision handed down by the People’s Supreme Court. The Court ruled that a Chinese sportswear company must stop using the name “Qiaodan Sports” in the Chinese language and rendered in the Chinese alphabet. For reference, the name “Qiaodan” is a Chinese transliteration of the English name “Jordan”.
Qiaodan Sports had registered its name more than a decade ago, but Mr. Jordan’s lawyers successfully argued that this brand built its business around the Chinese name without Mr. Jordan’s permission.
This legal action was commenced by Mr. Jordan in 2012. His legal team argued that Qiaodan’s trademarks had infringed his legal rights to use his name in China, and had asked the court to invalidate more than 60 trademarks used by the company.
In its decision, the People’s Supreme Court agreed that Qiaodan Sports had violated Chinese trademark law and its registration of the name should be revoked. However, Mr. Jordan’s victory was not absolute as it so often was on the basketball court.
While Qiaodan Sports is prohibited from using Mr. Jordan’s Chinese name when rendered in the Chinese alphabet, the Court upheld a prior ruling allowing the company to continue to use the Romanized version of the name Qiaodan (pronounced “Chee-ow-dan”).
In an interesting twist, this case was examined by the People’s Supreme Court in a public hearing on Intellectual Property Day (April 26, 2016), with the resulting decision being passed down on December 8, 2016.
Foreign brand owners will certainly take heart in this decision, which demonstrates that the Chinese intellectual property regime is committed to protecting famous international brands in the country.
For more information about protecting your brand, contact our Intellectual Property Group.