Michael Jordan in Chinese Trademark Dispute

11 June 2014

Michael Jordan was one of the most famous sport stars in the world and is certainly one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He is not only popular in his native USA but became enormously famous in China, known not only under the name “Jordan,” but also under the Chinese translation which is “Qiaodan”. In these proceedings Michael Jordan alleges that a company named Qiaodan Sports (“the Company”),  who are located in southern China, have had large commercial success using both his Chinese name and the number 23 (Michael Jordan’s jersey number during his career with the Chicago Bulls), without his permission.

It is important to note that the word Qiaodan is a registered trademark under Chinese law. The Company, having registered the trademark, assert that they have the rights associated with the use of the Qiaodan name. Michael Jordan did not seek to register the name Qiaodan as a trademark.

The Company have claimed that there are approximately 5,000 Chinese citizens with the name Qiaodan and as such, the name should not belong exclusively to Michael Jordan. Whilst the Chinese Courts agreed to hear the case on 1st March 2012, there has been no verdict to date. What is clear, is that Michael Jordan will have to show that the use of the Chinese translation of his name had created confusion amongst consumers who have mistakenly associated him, with the Company, and the products that the Company sells.

On 26th March 2013, the Company issued a counterclaim against Michael Jordan as a result of the alleged damage which has been done to the Company’s brand name and the subsequent effect that it has had on the Company’s proposed flotation on the Shanghai stock exchange.

Only time will tell whether or not the Chinese Courts choose to protect the rights associated with the names of celebrities such as Michael Jordan.  However, what is clear from cases such as this, is that individuals should consider registering the Chinese translation of their name to avoid such disputes arising in future.

We offer a fixed fee trademark registration service. To find out more information with regards to information technology or intellectual property matters please contact Christopher Ahearne on 01245 228130 or ahearnec@gepp.co.uk.