Sports / China

Top court urged to rehear Jordan dispute

By Sun Xiaochen And Cao Yin (China Daily) Updated: 2016-04-27 08:04

Top court urged to rehear Jordan dispute

A trademark dispute between retired US basketball icon Michael Jordan and a Chinese company has highlighted the complexity of such issues, with China's top court being asked on Tuesday to rehear the case.

The Supreme People's Court held a hearing at Jordan's request to decide whether to rehear his dispute with Chinese sportswear company Qiaodan Sports.

The hearing was attended by the US star's 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 playing in the league's 2015-16 playoffs. In 2012, Jordan first asked the administration to revoke multiple trademarks registered by Qiaodan Sports in 2000 and centering on "Qiaodan", the translation of Jordan's surname in Mandarin.

The administration refused Jordan's application, and a lower-level court in Beijing also ruled against his request for the Fujian-based company's use of the Qiaodan trademark to be suspended in early 2015.

Jordan later appealed to Beijing High People's Court but this was dismissed in July due to a lack of evidence to prove the existence of a definite link between the Qiaodan trademark and Jordan's name.

The former Chicago Bulls legend then applied to China's top court for a rehearing of the case, with the court accepting his application in December.

Zhang Guangliang, an associate professor of intellectual property law at Renmin University of China, said, "Jordan's team has to provide convincing evidence to prove the connection between the Chinese company's Chinese trademark and his English-language identity, which is a challenging task given the difference in languages.

"If his team cannot provide more solid proof that is acceptable to the court, it looks as if the court won't decide in his favor."

Fu Minrong, a lawyer at the Xinwenhui Law Firm in Shanghai, said despite the Chinese company legally registered the trademark, its action may constitute an act of unfair business competition because it has apparently profited from making connections between its brand and Jordan's.

Representatives for the administration and Qiaodan Sports said at Tuesday's hearing that there is 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 about 4,200 Chinese people are named Qiaodan.

Liu Yinying, a representive for the administration, stressed that the original verdict dismissing Jordan's request for the Qiaodan trademark to be revoked should be reaffirmed even if a rehearing is needed.

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

Ma Dongxiao, from the Beijing Zhong Lun Law Firm representing Qiaodan Sports in the case, said that Qiaodan is not the only name that corresponds to Jordan, while Jordan is a common name in the United States.

"So the current evidence is not enough to prove that Qiaodan definitely points to Michael Jordan, the NBA star."

After hearing the case for about four hours, 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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The trademark used by Qiaodan Sports.

The Air Jordan trademark.

Timeline: Jordan vs Qiaodan

Feb 23, 2012

US basketball icon Michael Jordan files lawsuit against Chinese sportswear company Qiaodan Sports, accusing it of infringing on his name rights by registering the trademark "Qiaodan"-which he said is a transliteration of his English surname.

Oct 27-30, 2014

Beijing No 1 Intermediate People's Court holds a hearing related to the case.

March 2015

Jordan appeals the case to the Beijing High People's Court after the intermediate court rules against him.

July 27, 2015

Beijing High People's Court dismisses Jordan's appeal in the second trial.

December 2015

Jordan applies for a retrial at the Supreme People's Court.


The Supreme People's Court holds a hearing to decide whether a retrial is necessary.

Other cases involving sports stars

Chinese basketball star Yao Ming sued Wuhan-based Yunhe Dashayu Sportswear Co for name and portrait infringements in May 2011 after the company marketed sneakers using the brand name Yaomingyidai, without the former NBA star's authorization. Chinese sportswear brand Ai Fu Sen used the name of NBA star Allen Iverson in 2003, sparking a dispute. The company makes and markets sneakers using logos like "Ai" and "Iverson". In 2012, the parties settled when Iverson signed an endorsement deal with the company.

Top court urged to rehear Jordan dispute

Top court urged to rehear Jordan dispute

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