Business

Jordan wins trademark case against Chinese firm

China's top court says sportswear company had 'malicious intent'

SHANGHAI: China's highest court has ruled in favour of former basketball star Michael Jordan in a long-running trademark case.

It relates to a local sportswear firm using the Chinese version of his name, overturning earlier rulings against the athlete.

Yesterday, the People's Supreme Court ruled that a Chinese sportswear company must stop using the Chinese characters for Jordan's name, read as Qiaodan in the basketball-mad country.

The ruling is a rare bit of good news for a foreign brand in China, where companies - including iPhone maker Apple and shoe brand New Balance - have often come out on the losing side in trademark disputes.

The former Chicago Bulls player sued Qiaodan Sports in 2012, saying the company located in southern Fujian province had built its business around his Chinese name and famous jersey number, 23, without his permission.

Last year, a court ruled in favour of Qiaodan Sports over the trademark dispute, a ruling which was then upheld by the Beijing Municipal High People's Court.

After that ruling, Jordan's legal team said they would take the case to China's top court.

CHINESE CHARACTERS

Although the court overturned earlier rulings in favour of Qiaodan Sport, it upheld a ruling allowing the firm to use the Romanised version.

It added that the Chinese firm's actions had displayed "malicious intent" by registering trademarks for Jordan's Chinese name.

Jordan said in a statement sent to Reuters: "I am happy that the Supreme People's Court has recognised the right to protect my name through its ruling in the trademark cases.

"Chinese consumers deserve to know that Qiaodan Sports and its products have no connection to me."

The Chinese firm said in a statement on its verified microblog that it respected the court's judgement and would, according to law, carry out proper protection on the firm's products and their intellectual property rights.

Jordan, who has a net worth of US$1.24 billion (S$1.75 billion) according to Forbes, is the majority owner of the Charlotte Hornets basketball team and has a lucrative endorsement contract with Nike, which makes the Air Jordan shoes.

A separate naming rights case is still to be heard. - REUTERS

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