Michael Jordan Reclaims His Name in Hard-Fought Legal Battle in China

What’s in a name? Millions — possibly billions — if you’re Michael Jordan.

After a hard-fought legal battle with Chinese sportswear firm Qiaodan Sports Co., the NBA legend has reclaimed the rights to his extremely valuable moniker, which has helped sells shoes and clothing for Nike Inc. and other U.S.-based companies for decades. (“Qiaodan” is the Chinese version of Jordan’s name.)

China’s highest court ruled largely in favor of Jordan today in a landmark decision that is expected to set a precedent for protecting personal names in trademark cases in a country with a reputation as a haven for counterfeit goods.

The Supreme People’s Court, handing down a partial victory to Jordan, revoked the rights of Qiaodan Sports Co. to use Jordan’s last name written in Chinese characters.

According to Bloomberg News, the Beijing court said Jordan’s Chinese name is “well-recognized” in China and that he should have the legal right to it. As a result, Qiaodan Sports, which operates about 6,000 shops in China, will have to give up its trademark registrations of the Chinese version of his name.

Qiaodan Sports China Michael Jordan
A Qiaodan Sports retail shop in Beijing.
CREDIT: REX Shutterstock.

The court further ruled that the trademark for Jordan’s Chinese name should be returned to China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce to be re-awarded, Bloomberg reports. The court rejected Jordan’s claim to the romanized form of the name “Qiaodan,” stating in its judgment that this version may not be closely linked with the basketball player (via Bloomberg).

Jordan initially filed the suit in 2012, alleging that Qiaodan Sports created a business model around his Chinese name and used his iconic “23” jersey number without his permission. The former Chicago Bulls star had shouldered several losses in China’s lower court’s before today’s victory.

In addition to using the Chinese version of Jordan’s name, Qiaodan’s products feature a silhouette of a leaping basketball player that closely resembles the Jordan logo that appears on Nike-produced Brand Jordan products.

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