China’s Supreme People’s Court ruled this week that the Chinese company Qiaodan Sports must stop using the two Chinese characters 乔丹 (“Qiaodan”) in connection with its products. The characters 乔丹 represent the Chinese name for basketball legend Michael Jordan, who has been locked in a legal battle for years with Qiaodan Sports, which uses the characters in connection with various sportswear products.
Qiaodan Sports, which has more than 6,000 stores across the country, had won a series of victories against Jordan in lower courts. Jordan sued the company after it announced its plans for an initial public offering in 2012. Qiaodan Sports began registering trademarks for its name in 1998, which was allowed by the China Trademark Office (CTMO) because Nike never trademarked the Chinese version of Jordan’s name. Qiaodan has since filed for more than 100 trademarks related to Jordan, including the names of his sons, Jeffrey, Jordan and Marcus Jordan, in both Chinese characters and pinyin (Roman characters).
Although the Supreme People’s Court ruled that Qiaodan Sports can no longer use the “乔丹” trademark, the Court ruled the the company can continue to use the “Qiaodan” pinyin trademark. Moreover, Qiaodan Sports will continue to use a device mark logo that Jordan claims to be an exploitation of his image. Jordan stated to the media: “Today’s decision ensures that my Chinese fans and all Chinese consumers know that Qiaodan Sports and its products have no connection to me.”
A Shanghai court still has yet to issue a ruling in a separate lawsuit over the use of Jordan’s name.