Pre-emptive registrations of famous trademarks and trade names in China often cause major difficulties for international businesses. As well as international brands, the names of celebrities are now targeted by Chinese businesses and cybersquatters.
In February 2012 Michael Jordan, one of the greatest basketball players of all time, filed legal proceedings in China against Qiaodan Sports Company Limited for the unauthorised use of his name. Since its incorporation in 2000 Qiaodan, a manufacturer of sportswear and shoes, has filed applications for various trademarks in China incorporating "Qiaodan" (the Chinese transliteration of "Jordan"), "Jordan" in Chinese, "23" (Jordan’s jersey number when he played for the Chicago Bulls) and even the names of Jordan’s children. Its Chinese QIAODAN mark and device mark are recognised as well-known trademarks in China. In response to the proceedings initiated by Jordan, Qiaodan maintains that it enjoys exclusive rights in China in its trademarks and company name.
Jordan’s case is not unique in China. Jeremy Lin Shu-hao, the new Chinese basketball star, has already become another victim. In 2011 a Chinese company registered a mark involving his name, and domain names such as linshuhao.com, linshuhao.net, linshuhao.cn and linshuhao.com.cn have all been registered by parties unrelated to Lin. The outcome of Jordan’s case is eagerly awaited to guide the protection of name rights in China.
This article first appeared in IAM magazine. For further information please visit www.iam-magazine.com.