Michael Jordan just won a legal battle in China against a company that ripped off his brand
Michael Jordan has been fighting a trademark battle for four years with a Chinese sportswear company over its use of his Chinese name. On Thursday, the NBA legend finally won.
Jordan accused the Qiaodan Sports Co. of using his Chinese name, a loose copy of his logo, and his iconic No. 23 jersey to help grow its massive sportswear franchise — which now includes nearly 6,000 stores across China. The Chinese Supreme Court seemingly agreed, and ruled that Qiaodan Sports Co. showed “malicious intent” in registering the name. The Court ordered the company to stop using the Chinese characters for Qiaodan — a transliteration of Jordan in Mandarin that is pronounced “CHEEOW-dan” — on its merchandise.
The company said it will follow the court’s ruling and hand back the trademark it took in 2002 to China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce, which can then re-award it.
“I am happy that the Supreme People’s Court has recognized the right to protect my name through its ruling in the trademark cases,” Jordan said in a statement. “Chinese consumers deserve to know that Qiaodan Sports and its products have no connection to me.”
Jordan, who retired from pro basketball in 2003, has continued to build an estimated $1.24 billion fortune on the back of lucrative endorsement contracts with Nike, where he acts as CEO of the Brand Jordan Division. He also owns a majority stake in the Charlotte Hornets NBA basketball team.
Two earlier court rulings sided with Qiaodan, which reflects more accurately the experience of many foreign brands in China where the entity that registers the trademark first gets to keep it. U.S. companies like Apple, New Balance, and Tesla have encountered similar problems in Chinese courts.
China’s highest court said Qiaodan Sports Co. can continue to use the English-language phonetic spelling of Jordan’s Chinese name, as this was not closely linked to the former basketball star.
As well as using Jordan’s Chinese name, Qiaodan has been selling sports merchandise including sneakers featuring a logo that closely mimics the iconic Jordan “Jumpman” logo, which is owned by Nike.
The NBA is enormously popular in China, which has a huge basketball following in general. To capitalize on the sport’s popularity, Qiaodan ran court-side billboards featuring Jordan’s Chinese name and its logo during some 2009-2010 NBA regular-season games.