Michael Jordan is launching a lawsuit against a Chinese sportswear manufacturer who he accuses of using his name without permission.
The NBA legend is taking Qiaodan Sports to a Chinese court because Jordan’s name in Chinese is Qiaodan. In a press release, Jordan stated: “I am taking this action to preserve ownership of my name and my brand.”
While this may be an open-and-shut case in some countries, Chinese intellectual property law is renowned as something of a haven for intellectual property rights (IPR) piracy. Apple is still battling a local company for control of the iPad trademark, while Microsoft has struggled for close to a decade to defeat various unauthorized versions of Windows and Office.
Yet according to Jordan, China’s IPR laws are becoming more accomodating to foreigners. Writing on his site, Jordan says:
“China continues to make improvements to the IPR regulatory environment to ensure that companies and individuals have a platform to address IPR violations. [...] This complaint is in line with China’s approach to IPR issues.”
China’s stricter approach to IPR disputes may be a result of its dealings with the U.S. over the issue. According to Businessweek, in a meeting last week China Vice President and heir-apparent Xi Jinping was challenged by Speaker of the House John Boehner over what Boehner called “deficiencies in China’s enforcement of intellectual property laws as an ongoing barrier to stronger economic ties.”
Jordan is not the first NBA star, former or otherwise, to take on a Chinese company. Yao Ming, the former Houston Rockets center who also played for the Chinese national team, sued Wuhan Yunhe Sportswear in May 2011 for using his name in its brand, Yao Ming Era. The company lost the case, and were forced to pay Ming 300,000 yuan (about $48,000).
And in 2010, Yi Jianlian (now of the Dallas Mavericks), won a similar case.