China / Society

Top court mulls rehearing Michael Jordan trademark case

By Sun Xiaochen and Cao Yin ( Updated: 2016-04-26 18:22


Top court mulls rehearing Michael Jordan trademark case

The trademark used by Qiaodan Sports. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Top court mulls rehearing Michael Jordan trademark case

The Air Jordan trademark. [Photo provided to China Daily]

China's top court held a hearing on Tuesday to decide whether to rehear a high-profile trademark dispute between retired US basketball star Michael Jordan and Chinese sportswear company Qiaodan Sports.

The hearing at the Supreme People's Court, which was granted at Jordan's request, was attended by his Chinese attorneys, representatives of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce and lawyers for Qiaodan Sports.

Jordan, the owner of NBA franchise the Charlotte Hornets, did not appear at the hearing as his team is taking part in the league's 2015-16 playoffs.

Qi Fang, one of Jordan's attorneys, said at the hearing that the verdict issued by Beijing High People's Court last July in favor of Qiaodan Sports was unfair.

He demanded that the administration suspend Qiaodan Sports' use of multiple trademarks, which were registered by the company in 2000 and center on "Qiao Dan", a translation for "Jordan" in Mandarin.

Jordan first asked the administration to revoke Qiaodan Sports' multiple trademarks in 2012, accusing the company of misleading consumers about its ties with him and of gaining huge economic benefits through using his name. The administration refused Jordan's request, as did a lower-level court in Beijing.

The former Chicago Bulls legend later appealed to Beijing High People's Court, which also ruled against him in July. He then applied for a rehearing at China's top court in December, which was accepted.

Representatives of the administration and Qiaodan Sports said at the hearing that "Qiao Dan" is a common Chinese name, and there was not sufficient evidence to conclude that the company's trademarks naturally referred to the six-time NBA champion.

The company also provided a statistic from the Ministry of Public Security at the hearing, showing that some 4,200 Chinese people are named Qiao Dan.

Liu Yinying, a representative for the administration, said that the original verdict dismissing Jordan's request for the Qiaodan trademark to be revoked should be reaffirmed.

"The registration of the 'Qiao Dan' trademark didn't violate any specific terms of China's Trademark Law," she said.

Ma Xiaodong, a lawyer representing Qiaodan Sports, said "Qiao Dan" is not the only name that corresponds to "Jordan", which is a common surname in the United States.

"So the current evidence is not enough to prove that 'Qiao Dan' specifically points to Michael Jordan, the NBA star," Ma said.

After hearing the case for about four hours on Tuesday morning, the top court's collegiate bench did not announce whether the case will be reheard. The decision will be made soon, the court said.

The collegiate bench consists of five senior judges specializing in intellectual property, including top court vice-president Tao Kaiyuan.

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