Nike’s namesake comes from the Greek Goddess of Victory and the sportswear giant once again lived up to their legendary name by scoring a second victory in the Ninth Circuit. The Sports Law Insider has previously reported on the three-year suit between photographer Jacobus Rentmeester and Nike over the iconic Jumpman Jordan logo.
The action started back in January 2014 when Rentmeester filed suit against Nike for copyright infringement. The iconic logo shows Michael Jordan in a common ballet pose known as the grand jeté. Rentmeester took what he believes to be a similar photo in 1984 for Life Magazine that showed Jordan in the pose dunking the ball. Rentmeester alleged that he contracted with Nike in 1985 to allow Nike to use his photo of Jordan for two years, but that Nike has now used the photo and pose continuously over the past thirty years. In his original suit, Rentmeester alleged that Nike infringed on his copyright when the company made the distinctive silhouette logo. Rentmeester also alleged that Nike’s decision to subsequently photograph Jordan in the pose was a copy of his 1984 shoot.
The suit was dismissed from District Court in 2015 due to the photographs not being similar enough to arise to infringement especially due to the “thin or very close to thin protection” afforded to photographs. Rentmeester appealed the District Court ruling shortly after. In February 2018, the Ninth Circuit rejected the copyright lawsuit ruling that the logo was not substantially similar to Rentmeester’s 1984 photo. Although the grand jeté was similar, the other details were not. The positioning of Jordan’s limbs, the background, the lighting, and the clothing worn were not similar. Rentmeester then asked for a rehearing after losing on appeal.
Now, on Monday, July 9, 2018, the Ninth Circuit once again rejected Rentmeester. Three Ninth Circuit judges rejected Rentmeester’s request for a full-bench rehearing. The Ninth Circuit said, “The full court has been advised of the petition for rehearing en banc, and no judge requested a vote on whether to rehear the matter en banc, the petition for panel rehearing and rehearing en banc … is denied.” This long suit has finally appeared to come to an end.