Sales staff arrange products at a branch of a Chinese sports store named after former NBA player Michael Jordan in Shanghai Thursday. Jordan has filed a lawsuit against the company for using his name without authorization. The Chinese company has over 100 outlets in Shanghai. Photo: Lu Yun/GT
A Chinese sportswear manufacturer refuted legendary basketball player Michael Jordan's accusations Thursday that the company has been using his Chinese name without permission.
In a statement on its website, the Qiaodan Sports Company Ltd said that "Qiaodan was registered under Chinese law and the company enjoys its exclusive trademark rights."
The company's trademark, Qiaodan, is the Chinese version for Jordan and its logo features a flying silhouette of the former Chicago Bulls superstar. The trademark was registered in China in 2002.
"Our legal use of the Qiaodan trademark is under the protection of Chinese law," said Hu Xiaoyan, a marketing director for Qiaodan Sports.
Jordan said earlier that he had filed a lawsuit against Qiao-dan Sports Tuesday, accusing the company of unauthorized use of his name and jersey number 23, according to a statement on his official website. Hu said they had not received a court notice to respond to the lawsuit.
Jordan was quoted as saying that "it is deeply disappointing to see a company build a business off my Chinese name without my permission" and he is taking this action to preserve ownership of his name and brand.
A spokeswoman with Jordan's legal team in China said that Qiaodan Sports has "misled Chinese consumers", referring to a survey by a sports product marketing company that showed 90 percent of 400 respondents in China's small cities believed Qiaodan Sports was Michael Jordan's own brand in China.
"China continues to make important changes to its IPR regulatory environment, as such, this marks an appropriate time to file this complaint," the spokeswoman told the Global Times in an e-mail interview, declining to reveal what compensation Jordan was seeking.
Qiaodan Sports, one of China's leading sportswear manufactures, is currently seeking an initial public offering. With over 5,000 stores in all 31 provinces and municipalities, its sales amounted to 2.9 billion yuan ($461 million) in 2010, according to its IPO prospectus.
Zhang Dongguang, a lawyer who specializes in trademark disputes said that it is difficult to estimate the outcome of this lawsuit.
"Qiaodan Sports has clear intentions to copycat Jordan and use his influence to promote products, but the outcome is hard to predict as the company could argue that Jordan is a common family name without any connection to Michael Jordan," Zhang said to the Global Times.
Jordan's lawsuit came in the midst of a trademark row between Apple and Proview Technology, a Chinese tech company.
Proview owns the iPad trademark in the Chinese mainland, but Apple claims it bought it years ago. In the meantime, emerging NBA star Jeremy Lin may face a similar situation as a woman in Jiangsu Province has reportedly trademarked Lin's Chinese name .