I have been provided the opportunity to sit in on a class taught by ESPN and Sports Illustrated writer Andrew Brandt that is called “Business and Legal Aspects of Professional Sports.” Brandt is teaching the class through Villanova University’s online offering, which makes it easy for anyone to access the content. This article is part of a series of posts that I am crafting for Brandt’s class.
Michael Jordan is no novice when it comes to the law. The former National Basketball League superstar and current owner of the Charlotte Hornets recently won a court battle over a supermarket’s wrongful use of his publicity rights and will have to pay Jordan $8.9 million unless there is an appeal and that amount is reduced or completely eliminated.
That case is not the only one Jordan has been involved in when it comes to intellectual property. Whereas the supermarket situation involved the wrongful use of Jordan’s name in conjunction with an advertisement, Jordan has a separate lawsuit against a Chinese company, which is now heading to China’s supreme court.
Jordan has sued Qiaodan Sports for selling apparel that contains the Chinese translation of Jordan’s name (“Qiaodan”) along with his popular jersey number (#23). It is a case founded in the realm of trademark law, with Jordan seeking damages for what he claims to be an act of trademark infringement by the Chinese apparel company. The key issue is whether Qiaodan Sports’ use of the name Qiaodan and/or #23 creates a likelihood of confusion among the relevant market of consumers, causing them to likely believe that Jordan is behind the brand and its products. Since trademark law can be a tricky subject, only a trademark lawyer could give a real insight into this case, and answer whether or not Jordan has a chance of winning against Qiaodan. It is interesting to follow.
Thus far, Qiaodan is winning the legal battle, with the lower court and a court of appeals ruling in favor of the sports apparel brand. However, Jordan has proven willing and ready to appeal to the highest court in China in order to have his case heard and with the hope that he will ultimately prevail despite initial signs that indicate otherwise.
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