Michael Jordan has failed to win full legal rights to use of his own name in China after filing 80 lawsuits against sports company Qiaodan Sports since 2012. However, Qiaodan, translating to ‘Jordan’, have been ordered to compensate the American basketball star $46,000 in emotional damages and $7,600 to cover legal expenses.
This follows a ruling from the China’s Supreme Court in April 2020, overturning two verdicts from lower courts in favour of Qiaodan, ruling the sports brand was using Jordan’s name illegally, however, noting the similarity between their logo and Jordan’s Nike Jumpman Logo did not violate any rights. Qiaodan Sports, founded in 2000 with nearly 6,000 stores, have now been told to stop using ‘the Chinese characters of ‘Qiaodan’ and issue a public apology to Jordan as well as clarifying the company has no affiliation with the athlete.
However, the company cannot be ordered to refrain from using the name entirely, as domestic trade mark law provides for a five-year period whereby disputes may be raised as to registered trade marks, and many of Qiaodan’s trade marks exceed this period.
Qiaodan and Bairen Trading Company, a distributor of the products in question, argued that ‘Jordan’, despite the high-profile reputation of the athlete, is a common Western surname and therefore signals no intention to mislead the public into believing there to be a direct association with Michael Jordan. The Shanghai Court, however, noted the company had also previously trade marked around 200 related marks, including the translations of both Jordan’s sons names as well as 23, his jersey number, indicating an intention to and ‘obvious attempt’ to mislead or cause confusion.
These rulings follow the phase one deal Beijing signed in January 2020, declaring a dedication to improve intellectual property rights to aid in the trade war ongoing between the US and China.
By Ellie King, student from Southampton Solent University