With a line of shoes in his name, and the famous image of his sporting leap branded across so many products, Michael Jordan must rank as one of the most recognised sportsmen on the planet. Not surprisingly he guards his image carefully, so when he discovered a sportswear firm in China was using his name, Jordan was furious. In February last year he sued Qiaodan, whose name sounds identical to Jordan’s in Chinese. While the former basketball star might not have expected justice to be especially swift, he is probably more surprised by the unlikely turn that the case has taken. According to the Wall Street Journal, Qiaodan is now counter-suing Jordan in its home city of Quanzhou in Fujian province. The firm, which has more than 6,000 outlets selling its sportswear, is seeking damages of $8 million, claiming that Jordan “tarnished” its reputation in China and derailed its plans to IPO in Shanghai thanks to his own lawsuit.
Trademarks are a thorny issue in China, especially for foreign entities. Qiaodan first registered its name in 1997 but some legal experts say that Jordan has a strong case given a provision in Chinese law that says businesses can’t freely use the names of famous people, even if the persons concerned haven’t registered them as trademarks.
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