On December 8th 2016, the Chinese Supreme Court found Chicago Bulls basketball player Michael Jordan to be the legitimate owner of his name in mandarin ("乔丹", or "qiaodan"). The trade mark previously belonged to Qiaodan Sports Company, a national sports apparel business.
The Chinese Supreme Court found that the Company was violating the national trade marks law and that the conflicted IP right should be transferred to Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan and Nike had previously registered his name in China, but only in English (i.e. "Jordan") when the famous sports brand launched the notorious "Air Jordans" in the 1990s.
Not only did the Company acquire the famous basketball player's name, but they sign itself is highly similar to the famous Air Jordan brand.
However, the decision does not force Qiaodan Sports to cease in its use of Michael Jordan's name en mandarin since the judges did not consider that there was sufficient evidence to prove that the relevant consumers would link the mark to the famous basketball player. In short, the company will have to modify Jordan's Chinese name, but it can still use the term "Qiaodan" on its products.
This decision has been considered to be a turning point for intellectual property rights regarding famous natural persons. "I think this decision will have a huge social impact and will serve as an encouraging precedent for foreign companies. I believe that China is slowly bettering its IP protection" claimed Zhao Lin, lawyer of CCPIT, the largest IP law firm in China.
Written by: The UAIPIT Team