U.S. basketball legend Michael Jordan, whose name in Chinese is transliterated as Qiaodan, is suing Qiaodan Sports Co. for misleading consumers by using his name and his jersey number, 23, as a Chicago Bulls player.
Qiaodan Sports is a second-tier sporting goods chain with more than 5,700 stores all over China. It has become a highly successful franchise and was on its way to completing its initial public offering, or IPO, last year when Jordan sued them. Once the lawsuit was filed, Qiaodan decided to not proceed with its IPO. The trial began Saturday in a Shanghai court.
Jordan is suing the company for using his name and jersey number without his permission and is demanding 1.14 million yuan ($183,000) in compensation, which the former Bulls basketball star said he will invest in “growing the sport of basketball in China.” The Chicago Bulls honored Jordan by retiring his number.
Qiaodan Sports registered its name in 1998, long after Jordan became a household name in China but after Jordan gained fame in the U.S., which was possible 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, which is a way of writing Chinese words using Western letters. According to a study, 90 percent of youths in China’s second-tier cities believe Qiaodan Sports and its products are endorsed or have ties with Jordan himself, as the Chinese sports products, in addition to the brand name, bear a logo of a man playing basketball very similar to Nike’s Air Jordan “Jumpman” logo.
Qiaodan Sports' IPO plans having been put on hold, and the company filed a countersuit against Jordan in March asking for $8 million in compensation. In addition, the company has publicly fired a series of retorts in the case defending itself against Jordan’s accusations.
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For example, under Chinese civil law, only Chinese citizens or foreign nationals living in China may be protected under naming rights. Jordan, who has never lived in the country, does not qualify, Qiaodan said. Also, Qiaodan, a transliteration of the common surname Jordan, does not belong to Jordan. Further, Qiaodan claims its name originally meant “grass and woods of the south" and has nothing to do with the basketball star at all.
Jordan has made a website going over the history and facts of the case against the Chinese sporting goods company titled "The Real Michael Jordan."