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NBA Star Michael Jordan Name Right Dispute Case First Instance Sentenced

On December 30, 2020, the Shanghai Second Intermediate Court issued a verdict of the first instance in the case of former American professional basketball player Michael Jordan v. Qiaodan Sports Company and Bairen Trading Company for name rights disputes. So far, the dispute between the NBA basketball star Michael Jordan and the domestic sports brand ushered in a new litigation result. Since 2012, there have been several rounds of disputes between the two sides around trademark dispute.

From the perspective of name rights, this case affirmed the popularity of the basketball star Michael Jordan, and stepped up efforts to protect the personality rights of overseas celebrities and related property rights.

After the trial, the Shanghai Second Intermediate People's Court held that the Jordan Sports Company, knowing that Michael Jordan has a high reputation, still chose the word "Jordan" for trademark registration without authorization and registered the company name "Jordan". In addition, Jordan Sports Company also registered Michael Jordan’s former jersey number "23" and the Chinese translations of his two sons Marcus Jordan and Geoffrey Jordan as trademarks, which are very direct and sufficient. It was determined that it had the intention to cause or allow the public to cause confusion, so Qiaodan Sports Co. Ltd. constituted an infringement of the plaintiff’s name right. The seller Bairen Trading Company does not have a common intent to infringe, but in the future it shall not sell infringing products. Since some of the "Jordan" trademarks registered by Qiaodan Sports Company have already exceeded the five-year dispute period in the "Trademark Law" and have become irrevocable trademarks, reasonable measures should be taken to prevent the public from relating the original and defendant. This association of relevance not only achieves the purpose of stopping the infringement of the plaintiff’s name rights, but also takes into account the legislative purpose of the "Trademark Law" regarding the five-year dispute period. Since the plaintiff clearly stated in this case that it does not claim economic losses, the Court only made judgments on the plaintiff’s claim for mental damage relief and reasonable expenditures in the litigation.

Accordingly, the Shanghai Second Intermediate Court ruled in accordance with the law that Qiaodan Sports Company publicly apologized to the plaintiff in newspapers and on the Internet, and clarified the relationship between the two; Qiaodan Sports Company stopped using the "Jordan" business name in its corporate name; Qiaodan Sports Company should stop using trademarks involving "Jordan", but for trademarks involving "Jordan" that exceeds the five-year dispute period, reasonable methods including distinctive signs shall be used to indicate that it is not related to former American basketball player Michael Jordan; Jordan Sports Company shall compensate the plaintiff with RMB 300,000 for mental injury; Jordan Sports Company shall compensate the plaintiff with RMB 50,000 for reasonable expenses incurred in the litigation in this case; other claims of the plaintiff are rejected.  

Source: China Intellectual Property

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