Chinese sports brand Qiaodan sues Michael Jordan

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, July 21, 2017
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A Qiaodan shoe in a store in Beijing.

Chinese sporting goods brand Qiaodan Sports, whose name is the Chinese translation of Jordan, filed a lawsuit against American basketball legend Michael Jordan on Wednesday for infringement of reputation and demanded 1.1 million yuan (US$162,500) in compensation.

After a major partial victory in a trademark case heard by the Chinese Supreme People's Court last December, former National Basketball Association (NBA) star Michael Jordan, and the law firm of Fangda Partners were sued in Beijing by Qiaodan Sports.

According to the official website of the Beijing High People's Court, the case was prompted by a letter sent by Fangda on behalf of Jordan last February to the Tianjin Municipal Administration of Sport and the organizers of the 13th National Games being held in Tianjin this fall.

Qiaodan Sports accused Fangda and Jordan of twisting the content from the Supreme Court decision and misleading the Tianjin sports authorities and the National Games organizers in an attempt to stop them from working with Qiaodan Sports. The Beijing Chaoyang District Court has agreed to hear the case that involves a demand for 1.1 million yuan for the mental damage suffered and payment of all legal fees.

In its court filing, Qiaodan Sports said Jordan had "maliciously" initiated 78 trademarks disputes over a number of years but had only managed to win three of them. And these only involved Qiaodan's "defensive trademarks", not its operating trademarks. So the Supreme Court's ruling would not affect the company's other business trademarks at all, Qiaodan argued.

However, the letter sent to the National Games intentionally misled others to think that all of Qiaodan Sports' disputed trademarks had been revoked, while the letter also made "belittling remarks" and engaged in "malicious defamation" against the company's business reputation, according to the court filing. Qiaodan Sports said that, based on an assessment by an independent third party, its reputation had been damaged by the action of Jordan and Fangda in sending the letter. Besides monetary damages, the plaintiff is also demanding retraction of the letter and a public apology from the defendants.

Qiaodan's attorney Chen Ruojian told China News Service that the 1.1 million yuan being demanded was merely a temporary symbolic amount, and Qiaodan Sports would seek other compensation.

"We may change amount depending on our assessment of the letter's impact. Qiaodan Sports has had to undertake much effort to maintain its business relationship with its partners after Jordan and his lawyers made this attack," he said.

Michael Jordan's attorneys have not yet responded to the new lawsuit.

The Supreme People's Court ruled last December that the trademark in dispute, "Qiaodan" (Chinese characters 乔丹), the Chinese translation for "Jordan", violated the basketball star's right to his name and broke provisions of the Trademark Law in three cases and so would be revoked.

However, the court ruled that the former NBA legend has no exclusive rights to the use of the alphabetic spelling of "Qiaodan", which is the Pinyin (Romanized phonetic spelling) version of the Chinese characters, and rejected Jordan's claim in this regard.

The grueling legal battle started in 2012, when Michael Jordan accused Qiaodan Sports Co. Ltd. of unauthorized use of his name and identity. He claimed this misled Chinese consumers into believing he was behind the brand, and so he had filed trademark violation claims against the Chinese company.

Jordan also appealed to the Trademark Review and Adjudication Board of the State Administration for Industry & Commerce to revoke the disputed trademarks, but this was rejected.

Later, Jordan filed lawsuits against the trademark authority's adjudication, but lost. Chinese courts originally upheld the adjudication on the grounds that the Chinese translation "Qiaodan" is just a translation of a common family name, and did not necessarily refer to the basketball player.

In 2015, Jordan appealed to the Supreme Court, claiming previous verdicts by lower courts in Beijing permitted Qiaodan Sports to use his Chinese name "Qiaodan", his team number 23 and a dunking basketball player logo, which Jordan claimed made it appear that he was associated with the brand.

The Supreme People's Court accepted the appeal on the basis of the Administrative Procedural Law, publicly trying the case in April 2016.

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