|Just sue it: Michael Jordan takes on the fakers "Qiaodan"|
In the appeal hearing that started on Tuesday, Jordan’s lawyers argued that Qiaodan Sports Co. Ltd., a family-owned business with about 6,000 shops selling shoes and sportswear throughout China, has damaged the basketball star’s legal rights to his name, asking that the company’s trademark registrations be revoked. Qiaodan, pronounced "Chee-ow dahn", is a Mandarin transliteration of Jordan that was registered by the Chinese company more than a decade ago. Jordan first sued the company in 2012 and lower courts have ruled on behalf of the Chinese company.It appears a flagrant violation, yet the wheels of Chinese justice take a while to turn:
Qiaodan, one of the country’s top sports apparel makers founded in 1984, legally registered the Pinyin "Qiaodan" and Chinese characters of the name. Jordan’s lawyers say the company uses his basketball jersey number "23" to sell products, as well as created a similar basketball replica of Jordan’s iconic "Jumpman" logo that Nike Inc. uses for its Air Jordan brand. Jordan’s team argues that under China’s law, the company’s trademarks have damaged his legal rights and is asking the court to invalidate more than 60 trademarks used by the company.With China aiming to become a consumer-driven market, the outcome of this trial matters insofar as it will send a signal to other foreign brands whether their IP will be protected better:
"Qiaodan is a name that is well known to every household in China and refers to Michael Jordan," Qi Fang, a lawyer with Fangda Partners representing Jordan, told the court on Tuesday. Lawyers for the Chinese company succeeded last July in arguing that Jordan is a very common English last name. Jordan’s lawyers appealed that case and the decision by the Supreme People’s Court will be final.
The case illustrates the challenges of Chinese intellectual property law for some foreign companies in the world’s fastest-growing consumer market. The case could set an important legal precedent for trademark rights in China, and some legal scholars say the case offers the nation’s Supreme People’s Court an opportunity to present a positive image of the Chinese legal system.
"It’s an extremely influential case, and the final verdict from China’s top court would play a leading role in future similar cases," said Li Shunde, a Chinese Academy of Social Sciences research specialist in intellectual-property law. "China has been consolidating IP over the past years and apparently the authorities want to use this case to show that the country takes the IP issues very seriously and is devoting resources to protect the rights of foreign businesses."