Before becoming one of the Internet’s hottest (and saddest) memes, Michael Jordan was a pretty useful basketball player. In fact, Michael Jordan is one the world’s most recognisable athletes and has enjoyed almost as much success (some may say more success) with his various JORDAN branded goods as he did on the court (noting that he is a six time NBA champion, five time NBA MVP, and six time NBA Finals MVP).
So recognisable was the JORDAN brand that a Chinese company, Qiaodan Sports Co., adopted and began using a Chinese character version of the English-language name ‘Jordan’ (the Qiaodan Trade Mark) in relation to sports clothing. Notably, the transliteration of the Chinese character trade mark is Qiaodan (also the company name) and the company reports an annual income of around US$414 million from its 5,000+ stores across China.
In 2012, action was taken by Jordan to cancel the Qiaodan Trade Mark on the basis that ‘JORDAN’ (and foreign language equivalents) is a well-known trade mark associated exclusively with him and his various JODRAN branded goods. The first two attempts (through the Trademark Review and Adjudication Board and then the Beijing High People’s Court) to have the trade mark cancelled both failed on the basis that ‘JORDAN’ was not sufficiently well-known in China.
The latest appeal to the Supreme People’s Court has, however, resulted in a significant victory for the basketball star. The Court ruled that the Qiaodan Trade Mark should be cancelled as it ‘well-recognised’ in China as referring to Michael Jordan and his various JORDAN branded goods. It seems that the Qiaodan Trade Mark will be re-awarded to Michael Jordan (or a company he is associated with).
This is a victory not only for Michael Jordan, but also for the owners of other well-known brands that may have had similar issues.
There are other pending actions between these parties and we will keep you updated on further developments.
This article is an extract from Spruson & Ferguson’s Asia-Pacific Regional Trade Mark Update. You can view the entire summary here.
Trade Marks Team
Hong Kong, Beijing China