The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Global Intellectual Property Center is applauding a ruling handed down today in favor of NBA legend Michael Jordan in a long-fought legal battle with China’s Qiaodan Sports Co.
“We welcome the Supreme People’s Court decision that recognizes the importance of intellectual property rights,” Mark Elliot, EVP of GIPC, said in a statement. “The court has called an intentional foul and sent a clear message of deterrence to those who file trademarks in bad faith.”
Since 2012, Jordan had been involved in a trademark battle against Qiaodan Sports, which he accused of using the Chinese version of his name, “Qiaodan,” to brand and market sportswear in the country.
Although Jordan lost his case in several lower Chinese courts, the nation’s highest court, the Supreme People’s Court of China, today recognized the former Chicago Bulls star athlete’s right to protect the Chinese version of his name.
In its judgment, the court essentially revoked the rights of Qiaodan Sports Co. to use Jordan’s last name written in Chinese characters. As a result, Qiaodan Sports, which operates about 6,000 shops in China, will have to give up its trademark registrations for Qiaodan.
“This case is not only about an individual sports icon; it is about creating a legitimate marketplace where consumers can trust the products they buy,” Elliot said. “Innovators and creators within the business community — and the millions of jobs they support — count on the legal system to protect their investments. This decision helps to reinforce those protections.”
In country with a highly documented history of counterfeit activity, Elliot added that he viewed the Supreme Court’s decision as an outcome that could benefit both Chinese and foreign brands.
U.S. based athletic footwear brands in particular — Under Armour, Nike and New Balance are examples — have faced an uphill battle when they believed their products were being knocked off by China-based firms.
On behalf of many such U.S. footwear and apparel firms, organizations such as the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) have called for stronger intellectual property laws in the world’s most populous country.
Elliot believes today’s ruling could advance that cause.
“This ruling marks a step forward for efforts to foster a better business ecosystem in China,” he said.