Basketball mega-star Michael Jordan won part of his trademark suit against a China-based sportswear company Thursday, following a years-long struggle for control over the rights to his Chinese name.
In a ruling by the Chinese Supreme Court, Qiaodan Sports Co, based in southeastern Fujian province, must stop using the Chinese characters “Qiaodan” on its merchandise, according to a transcript of court records posted on an official website.
The word is a Chinese rendering of the athlete’s name widely known by the country’s consumers.
The supreme court did not stop the company from using phonetic spellings of Jordan’s Chinese name using the English alphabet, however, saying that they do not infringe on his right to use his name in the country.
“I am happy that the Supreme People’s Court has recognized the right to protect my name through its ruling in the trademark cases,” Jordan said in a statement provided by his Chinese representative to AFP.
“Today’s decision ensures that my Chinese fans and all Chinese consumers know that Qiaodan Sports and its products have no connection to me.”
The former Chicago Bull asked Chinese authorities in 2012 to revoke the Chinese company’s trademarks, which featured a similar name and logo to Jordan’s Nike-produced brand.
The six-time NBA champion accused the Chinese company of misleading consumers about its ties to him by using the name along with a silhouette of a leaping basketball player resembling the “Jumpman” logo used by US sporting goods giant Nike to promote its Air Jordan brand.
Jorden filed his appeal to China’s highest court after having his claims rejected by two lower courts.
Michael Jordan is arguably the most popular international basketball star in China. He retired from the sport in 2003.
China has long been seen as a counterfeiters’ haven and has constantly been criticised by its trade partners over lax protection of intellectual property rights.
It remained on this year’s US Priority Watch List of trading partners that fail to protect such rights despite “welcome developments… [in] legal and regulatory reform efforts, and encouraging developments in individual cases in China’s courts”.
Qiaodan Sports Co could not be reached for comment Thursday.