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Michael Jordan China case
Qiaodan in China

China’s top court has ruled that Michael Jordan owns the rights to his last name in Chinese, overturning earlier decisions against the 53-year-old basketball legend in a long-running trademark dispute.

Michael Jordan finally wins the right to use the Chinese version of his name after beating rip-off sports goods firm in court case 

Jordan filed trademark suit against the company based in Fujian Province, China Qiaodan Sports Co has name and image branding that's similar to the sports star After two losses in Beijing courts, Jordan won his case at China's Supreme Court

Back in 2012, Jordan sued Chinese sportswear company Qiaodan Sports, which allegedly took the athlete’s Chinese name Qiaodan, pronounced “chee-ow dahn,” and his jersey number 23, to sell basketball jerseys and shoes. Jordan claimed this misled Chinese consumers to believe he was behind the brand.

After lower courts ruled in favor of the Chinese company, Jordan took the case to the Supreme People’s Court, which ruled on Dec. 8 that the Chinese firm will have to give up its registration of the Chinese version of Qiaodan, or 乔丹. The final ruling still allows the Chinese firm to use the pinyin version “Qiaodan” though.

“I am happy that the Supreme People’s Court has recognized the right to protect my name through its ruling in the trademark cases,” Jordan said in a statement to Quartz. “Chinese consumers deserve to know that Qiaodan Sports and its products have no connection to me.”

A separate rights case against Qiaodan Sports is still pending in Shanghai, the statement said.

Basketball megastar Michael Jordan won part of his trademark suit against a China-based sportswear company on Thursday.

The victory came following years of struggle for control over the rights to his Chinese name and his old Jersey number, 23.

In a ruling by the Chinese Supreme Court, Qiaodan Sports Co, based in Fujian Province, must stop using the Chinese characters for 'Qiaodan' on its merchandise, according to a transcript of court records posted on an official website.

The Chinese characters are a rendering of the athlete's name, which is widely known by the country's consumers.

However, the court did not stop the company from using phonetic spellings of Jordan's Chinese name using the English alphabet saying that they do not infringe on his right to use his name in the country.

Jordan said in a statement provided by his Chinese representative to AFP: 'I am happy that the Supreme People's Court has recognised the right to protect my name through its ruling in the trademark cases.

'Today's decision ensures that my Chinese fans and all Chinese consumers know that Qiaodan Sports and its products have no connection to me.'

The former Chicago Bull player asked Chinese authorities in 2012 to revoke the Chinese company's trademarks, which featured a similar name and logo to Jordan's Nike-produced brand.

The six-time NBA champion accused the Chinese company of misleading consumers about its ties to him by using the name.

Qiaodan also used a silhouette of a leaping basketball player resembling the 'Jumpman' logo used by US sporting goods giant Nike to promote its Air Jordan brand.

Jordan filed his appeal to China's highest court after having his claims rejected by two Beijing courts in 2014 and 2015.

Michael Jordan is arguably the most popular international basketball star in China. He retired from the sport in 2003.

China has long been seen as a counterfeiters' haven and has constantly been criticised by its trade partners over lax protection of intellectual property rights.

It remained on this year's US Priority Watch List of trading partners that fail to protect such rights despite 'welcome developments... [in] legal and regulatory reform efforts, and encouraging developments in individual cases in China's courts'. 

Jordan, who has a net worth of $1.24 billion according to Forbes, is the majority owner of the Charlotte Hornets basketball team and has a lucrative endorsement contract with Nike Inc, which makes Air Jordan shoes.

Qiaodan Sports Co could not be reached for comment Thursday and the law firm representing it declined to comment.

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