The top American basketball icon Michael Jordan has fought against a Chinese company, Qiaodan Sports, over the past decade for a series of marks “乔丹” (the Chinese transliteration of Jordan), “QIAODAN” (the Pinyin of乔丹) as well as “” (the device).
A Chinese company which mainly engaged in manufacturing and selling sportswear and shoes changed its trade name to Qiaodan Sports in 2000 and applied for a series marks related to Jordan.
Jordan requested to cancel the marks of Qiaodan Sports before the Trademark Review and Adjudication Board (“TRAB”) of the State Administration for Industry & Commerce, but was rejected by the TRAB. Jordan then brought the cases to Beijing Intermediate Court, which maintained the decisions made by TRAB. After the appeals again were rejected by the High Court, Jordan brought the cases to the Supreme Court requesting a retrial.
The Supreme Court finally ruled in favour of partial claims lodged by Jordan, recognizing the registration and use of “乔丹” (the Chinese transliteration of Jordan) by Qiaodan Sports violated Jordan’s rights in his name and broke provisions on civil rights protection as regulated in the PRC Trade Mark Law. The Supreme Court listed three conditions for the recognition of the name of a person: 1) such name shall obtain certain fame in China and be well recognized by the public; 2) the public shall use such name to refer to the person; and 3) a connection shall be established between such name and the person. Obviously, the name of “乔丹” meets such requirements.
In the decision, the Supreme Court also overruled the previous practice of the courts on “long and good business operation may justify a trade mark which was registered in an improper way”.
However, the Supreme Court held that Jordan has no exclusive rights to the use of “QIAODAN” which is the Pinyin (phonetic spelling) of the Chinese characters, and rejected his claim in this regard.