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Michael Jordan victorious in Chinese trademark dispute

12-12-2016

China’s People’s Supreme Court found in favour of the US basketball legend in his infringement action against a Chinese sportswear company.

Following the ruling, the sportswear company must stop using the characters for Jordan’s name, Qiaodan in Chinese. It has been using the name for more than a decade, registering more than 60 trademarks to protect the brand Qiaodan Sports in the country. However, Jordan was able to argue successfully at China’s supreme court that the company had built its business around his name without his permission.

Not quite a slam dunk
The latest supreme court ruling overturns previous rulings from China’s lower courts which found against Jordan. Nonetheless it is not a complete victory: while the ruling invalidates a number of Qiaodan Sports’ trademarks, it does not cover a related trademark protecting the romanised version of Qiaodan (pronounced ‘Chee-ow-dahn’). This infringement claim is still yet to be decided by the Chinese courts.

Upholding brand rights in the Chinese market
The protection of trademarks in China can be a challenging area for many outside the country. Despite recent changes to provide overseas brands with greater rights in case of disputes, parties claiming infringement often need to pursue their cases to the highest courts in order to stop the infringing party, as the Jordan case demonstrates.

Trademark watching strategies are crucial in such cases, not only by identifying infringement when it takes place (including in Chinese script), but also by collating the evidence needed to prove infringement. Find out more about trademark watching.

The counterfeiting challenge
Trademark registration in China is also a crucial step to take when tackling counterfeit goods emanating from and being sold in the territory. This includes, for example, registering key brand and product names as trademarks, and innovative design features as design rights, so that you can seek legal redress for any unauthorised use of those trademark or design rights (e.g. for the manufacture, distribution and sale of trademarked goods); and taking enforcement action where appropriate.

Please contact us for further advice on the best strategies for dealing with trademark infringement, or read more advice on developing an anti-counterfeiting strategy in our frequently asked questions.