Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Michael Jordan Sues Chinese Sportswear Company for Trademark Infringement

The former NBA basketball star Michael Jordan recently filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Qiaodan Sports, a Chinese sportswear company, alleging unauthorized use of his Chinese name.

In his complaint filed in a Shanghai court, the former Chicago Bulls point guard accused the sportswear company of profiting from his trademark by building a brand around the name he is known by in China - Qiaodan.  The lawsuit also contends that the defendant has attempted to register trademarks using Chinese names that match those of Jordan’s two children. 

Jordan released a statement and a video justifying his reasons for suing the Chinese company, saying he was “deeply disappointed to see a company build a business off my Chinese name without my permission, use the number twenty-three and even attempt to use the names of my children.”

According to a representative from the sportswear company, it is taking the allegations seriously but had yet to receive a notice of appearance from any domestic court.

“In Chinese, ‘Qiaodan’ is a trademark registered by us according to Chinese laws and of which we enjoy exclusive rights.  The usage of this trademark is protected by Chinese laws,” stated the company representative.

Based in Southern China’s Fujian Province, Qiaodan had about $270 million in revenue for the first half of 2011, and $45 million in profit.  The company sells athlete-branded basketball shoes and jerseys in its 5,715 retail outlets in China. 

In a prospectus Qiaodan filed with Chinese regulators in preparation to raise 1.1 billion yuan ($175 million) for a planned public stock offering, the company maintained that it never used Jordan’s image to promote its brand and that it has exclusive rights to use the trademark.

Qiaodan initially registered the trademark rights to Michael Jordan’s Chinese moniker in 1997 when it applied to use the name with the logo of a baseball player at bat, according to the trademark office of China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce.

Although Jordan does not hold a registered trademark for his Chinese name in China, a provision in Chinese law states that businesses cannot freely use the names of famous celebrities and athletes, even if the people do not have registered trademarks for their names.