Yao Ming auctions a bottle of his own-brand red wine for charity in Shanghai last year. (File photo/Xinhua)
Yao Ming, the retired former center for the Houston Rockets, has successfully sued the Wuhan-based Yunhe Sharks Sportswear Company for infringement of his image rights.
The case is the first time the Chinese basketball star has sued a sporting goods company in China and he was awarded compensation of 1 million yuan (US$158,000) by the high court of Hubei province.
When Yao was at the peak of his career and idolized in his home country, many companies produced goods such as basketballs and sports shoes bearing Yao's name without his authorization.
In May last year, Yao filed a lawsuit against the company for producing clothing and shoes with his signature and name without his authorization. Yao asked the Wuhan Intermediate People's Court to fine the company 10 million yuan (US$1.6 million) for the infringement.
The company reportedly used Yao's name and picture in its advertising and on its products since 2009 but did not pay the player anything for doing so.
The intermediate court ruled the company must pay Yao 300,000 yuan (US$47,500), immediately stop using his name and image on its products and issue a public apology. Yao felt the penalty was too lenient and appealed to the higher court for a compensation of 10 million yuan (US$1.6 million).
The higher court finally ruled that Yunhe Sharks only needed to pay Yao 1 million yuan (US$158,000) because the player did not suffer direct losses due to the infringement. The court also took into consideration the company's revenue during the two years it had made money from Yao's popularity.
Yao Ming 姚明
Yunhe Sharks Sportswear Company 武漢雲鶴大鯊魚體育用品