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Michael Jordan countersued by Chinese copycat brand

  • Staff Reporter
  • 2013-04-10
  • 10:35 (GMT+8)
A Qiaodan Sports store in Shanghai. (Photo/CFP)

A Qiaodan Sports store in Shanghai. (Photo/CFP)

Chinese sportswear brand Qiaodan Sports, which was sued by Michael Jordan last year for unauthorized use of his name, has filed a countersuit against the basketball legend, demanding that he apologize for damaging the company's reputation, Shanghai's Securities Daily reports.

The Fujian-based company filed the lawsuit against Jordan on March 29 and has requested $8 million in compensation. The case was formally accepted by the court on April 2, the company said.

As a second-tier brand in China, Qiaodan was geared for a public listing in March last year. On Feb. 23, however, Jordan sued the company for "deliberately and aggressively" using his name without permission and misleading customers into thinking that he had authorized its products.

"Qiaodan" is a Chinese transliteration of "Jordan" that is widely recognized in China. Qiaodan Sports also liberally uses the number 23 — Jordan's Chicago Bulls jersey number — and a symbol remarkably similar to Nike's iconic Air Jordan "Jumpman" logo on its merchandise.

A Shanghai court accepted Jordan's lawsuit last year, though there has yet to be a hearing as the parties have sought to resolve the dispute out of court. In December last year, Qiaodan Sports hinted at a countersuit after expressing frustration over the lack of progress in negotiations, accusing Jordan of trying to drag the case on indefinitely to tie up the company's resources and damage its business.

Qiaodan Sports pointed out that under China's civil law, only foreign nationals living in the country can enjoy the protection of naming rights, meaning Jordan, who has never lived in China, does not have the right to sue.

Chinese trademark law also only protects real or full names. "Qiaodan" is merely a transliteration of the common English surname "Jordan" and is not Michael Jordan's real or full name, the sports company said.

There are around 4,600 people in China with the name Qiaodan, as well as other NBA players, such as Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, whose surnames have been translated as "Qiaodan" in Chinese media.

Qiaodan has issued a statement saying that while the company respects Jordan and his contributions to basketball, they felt they had no choice but to countersue as his lawsuit came at a crucial moment in the company's development and impeded its IPO and overall expansion.

A spokesperson added that if Michael Jordan believes his rights were infringed by the company's trademark, he has the right to apply to China's trademark office to have it overturned.

Nike registered a trademark for "Jordan" in China in 1993 but did not register the Chinese version of the name, enabling Qiaodan Sports to successfully apply for it in 1997. The global sports giant had previously applied to have Qiaodan's trademark canceled several times, the last attempt coming in 2012 as the China Trademark Review and Adjudication Board rejected Nike's appeal on the basis that "Qiaodan" was not unique to Michael Jordan.

A 14-time NBA All-Star, five-time MVP and 10-time scoring champion, Jordan is widely regarded as the greatest basketball player of all time, having led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA titles during the 1990s. He is currently the majority owner and chairman of the Charlotte Bobcats, which finished with the worst record in NBA history last year and remains bottom of the league standings.

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