Michael Jordan Sues Chinese Company for Improper Use of His Name

Former NBA basketball legend Michael Jordan has filed a suit against a Chinese sportswear and shoe manufacturer, Qiaodan Sports Company Limited for "unauthorized use" of his name and identity, his attorney said recently. The conflict of celebrity name right and interest of enterprise trademark right again becomes the center of attention.

Michael Jordan: the company built business of my Chinese name without permission

In 1997, Jordan became its own brand under the Nike umbrella. The Bobcats owner Michael Jordan announced that he's suing Qiao Dan Sports, alleging that the company's name is a "well known" translation of Jordan's name. Jordan and his attorneys believed that the company "build a business" of Jordan's Chinese name without permission."This complaint is not about money. It's about principle and protecting my name. Any monetary awards I might receive will be invested in growing the sport of basketball in China." Jordan said in a statement.

"Inspired by Yao Ming's case here in China, we had filed suit in a Chinese court on February 21 against Qiaodan Sports," said Christine Kang, a partner of Jun He Law Offices. Shanghai's second intermediate court announced that it has accepted a lawsuit, but has yet to determine a trial date.

Qiaodan Sports: we have exclusive right to the Qiaodan trademark

A Qiaodan Sports spokesman said it is keeping a close eye on Jordan's litigation. "The Chinese word 'Qiaodan' is a registered trademark of Qiaodan Sports. The use of the brand has been endorsed and is thus protected by China's laws," according to a statement from Qiaodan Sports to CIP news.

As a matter of fact, Qiaodan Sports has long been questioned since it filed QIAODAN as a trademark. In 1997, Qiaodan Sports first registered "乔丹""QIAODAN" as trademarks, but was immediately challenged by Nike. Qiaodan Sports  said at the time:"We just use a Chinese translation of a common foreign family name and it cannot be identified with Michael Jordan." This statement was supported by Trademark Office of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) and Trademark Review and Adjudication Board (TRAB) under the SAIC. Nike's allegation was rejected and registration of the trademarks by Qiaodan Sports was approved.

Although Michael Jordan said the lawsuit was not about money, but about "principle and protecting my name." Analysts say the action may hamper the Qiaodan Sports's goal of being listed on the Shanghai stock exchange.

Analysis: never be a free-rider

"In the aspect of laws, what Jordan claim is not only the naming right, but refers to the right of publicity or commercialization of personality right of celebrities in the other countries, which is the right of an individual, especially of the celebrities or the public figures, to control the commercial use of his or her name, image, likeness or other unequivocal aspects of one's identity. But we don't have specific provision in protecting this right in our law system and it is usually classified as naming rights here in China. Chinese law system should be further improved." said professor Zhang Weijun from TongJi University.

"There's no doubt that Qiaodan Sports' hold the trademark legally, whether or not it violates Jordan's name right will be determined by the court. But, one thing should be noted that copying the names of famous sports players and other celebrities for product branding purposes will be discouraged and no one should be free-riders. In the long-run, a business will get more kicks than half pennies if they are the free-riders. In this case, the public will know that Michael Jordan has nothing to do with this company and this will attract particular resentment among the consumers." Zhang Weijun said.

(China IP News)