Basketball legend Michael Jordan sues Chinese sports good retailer Qiaodan

07 May 2013


US basketball legend Michael Jordan has sued Chinese sports good retailer Qiaodan Sports in a Shanghai court for misleading consumers by using his name and his jersey number without permission in a blatant case of copyright infringement.

Photograph credit:Steve Lipofsky

Fujian province-based sportswear company Qiaodan, which has more than 6,000 stores across China.

Qiaodan, when translated from Mandarin to English means Jordan, had registered its name in 1998, long after Michael Jordan became famous in China.

Since Michael Jordan's sponsor Nike did not get the Chinese version of the basketball star's name trademarked in China, Qiaodan used this lacuna and filed for more than 100 trademarks related to Jordan, including the names of his two sons, Jeffrey Jordan and Marcus Jordan.

Qiaodan is also using a logo of a man playing basketball that resembles Air Jordan logo, and his 23 number jersey, which his team, the Chicago Bulls had honoured him by retiring this number.

Qiaodan claims that the name Qiaodan, meaning ''grass and woods of the south" in Mandarin, and is a common surname in China and has nothing to do with the basketball star at all.

But apart from using a Chinese version of his name, a logo almost identical to the famous Jumpman silhouette, and marketing his 23 jersey number on a range of its products, Qiaodan has also registered the Chinese names of Michael's sons Jeffrey Jordan and Marcus.

The company has over 30 franchises and over 5,000 specialty stores, and revenue has grown from $45.6 million in 2007 to $456 million in 2010.

Qiaodan has now filed a counter-suit against Michael Jordan and is seeking $8 million in compensation for damages to its reputation, claiming it had to abandon plans for an IPO.

Michael Jordan, who is seeking $183,000 in compensation, and will be investing that money in basketball in China, has opened a website related to the lawsuit against Qiaodan titled: "The Real Michael Jordan."

''I am very happy that the Chinese courts have accepted my case to protect the use of my name and the interests of Chinese consumers. Qiaodan Sports has built a business off my Chinese name, the number 23, and even attempted to use the names of my children, without authorization. I think Chinese consumers deserve to be protected from being misled, and they should know exactly what they are buying,'' he said in a statement on the website.

''I am taking this action to preserve the ownership of my name and my brand.

''No one should lose control of their own name, and the acceptance of my case shows that China recognizes that this is true for everyone. After all, what's more personal than your name?''

Michael Jordan was first introduced to China while playing for the gold medal-winning US basketball team during the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. He went on to become a regular fixture of Chinese television, beginning with the 1987 NBA All-Star Game, the first NBA game ever broadcast in China.

As a player, Michael Jordan virtually rewrote the record book. He played 13 seasons for the Chicago Bulls, leading the league in scoring a record 10 times. His 30.1 points per game average is the highest in NBA history and, with 32,292 points, he ranks third on the all-time scoring list.

Michael Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA Championships.

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