INTA Bulletin

May 15, 2015 Vol. 70 No. 9 Back to Bulletin Main Page

CHINA: Michael Jordan May Not Win Right to His Name

Recently, the Beijing Intermediate People’s Court made trial judgments of first instance in the administrative litigation against the China Trademark Review and Adjudication Board (TRAB) in 78 trademark dispute cases involving the mark 乔丹 (Qiao Dan, in Chinese Pinyin), instituted by plaintiffs Michael Jordan and Nike. The other party to the disputes was the Chinese company Qiaodan Sporting Goods Inc. (Qiaodan).

The dispute focused on whether or not 乔丹 is exclusively associated with 迈克尔•乔丹 (Michael Jordan, in official Chinese translation).

The Beijing First Intermediate People’s Court concluded that 乔丹 is a common American surname, and refers to different persons using it as either first names or second names. Therefore, Qiaodan’s use and registration of
乔丹 as a trademark did not constitute infringement upon Michael Jordan’s right to his name, nor did it constitute an act of unfair competition. It decided 68 cases in favor of Qiaodan.

The plaintiffs have appealed to the Beijing Higher People’s Court for a trial of second instance.

Besides these administrative law suits, in February 2012, Michael Jordan filed a civil lawsuit against Qiaodan for infringement upon his right to his name before the Shanghai Second Intermediate People’s Court, claiming RMB 50 million (about $8 million) as damages. Afterwards, Qiaodan also initiated a civil lawsuit for infringement of its right of reputation against Michael Jordan. To date, both civil cases are pending.

The ongoing series of cases between Qiao dan and Michael Jordan potentially will become landmark cases and have piqued the interest of the Chinese public. On the one hand, the 乔丹 mark has gained a very high degree of consumer recognition in the market, and on the other hand, the Court must strike a balance between the public and individual interests.

Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of items in the INTA Bulletin, readers are urged to check independently on matters of specific concern or interest.

© 2015 International Trademark Association