On Thursday, January 22, a professional photographer filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Nike Inc. for their alleged excessive use of his iconic photograph of a mid-air Michael Jordan, which ultimately became the “Jumpman” logo.
In 1984, professional photographer, Jacobus Rentmeester, held a photo-shoot of Michael Jordan on the University of North Carolina campus for an up-coming LIFE magazine issue. At that photo-shoot, he captured one of the most well-known images in both sports and fashion. Rentmeester’s lawsuit claims Nike paid $150 for use of the negatives from that shoot and an additional $15,000 for a limited license to use the image for two years. That image then became the “Jumpman” logo splayed across a variety of Nike products in their Air Jordan line including sneakers, t-shirts, basketballs, headgear, bags, and among others.
Rentmeester registered his photograph with the US Copyright Office in December of 2014 and is now suing Nike for copyright infringement. The complaint says that Nike has used the image well beyond the limited license they agreed to 30 years ago. The photographer seeks unspecified financial damages and attorneys’ fees. Nike also faced a similar copyright infringement lawsuit last year when a professional photographer claimed the sporting goods manufacturer exceeded its license to use his 1987 photograph of Bo Jackson in its “Bo Knows” advertising campaign. The case settled within two months.