Michael Jordan Wins Trademark Case in China
In what is being hailed as a landmark decision, China’s highest court recently ruled in favor of Michael Jordan, holding that he owns the legal rights to the Chinese characters of the equivalent of his name. Jordan sued Qiaodan Sports Company, alleging that it built a brand by putting the Mandarin transliteration of his name on its sportswear. Jordan never gave permission for this use of his name and he has no connection with Qiaodan Sports. The high court overturned the lower courts, which had held that Quiaodan Sports could use Jordan’s name to sell goods.
For foreigners, the Chinese legal system has generally been a very difficult venue in which to prevail. Numerous companies, including New Balance, Apple, and Starbucks, have been involved in lengthy litigation over the right to use their names in China. The Jordan decision is an important one because it paves the way for foreign companies and celebrities pursuing similar cases in China. It also provides an incentive for foreign companies to continue doing business in China. The fact that the high court announced the decision in a live broadcast online shows the court understands the broad impact that this case will have.