A serious of well-known administrative disputes cases related to the trademark of Jordan have been sentenced via Supreme Court of China (P.R.) on last December publicly between Michael. J. Jordan and QiaoDan Sport. The trademark of QiaoDan (乔丹) interrupts the name of M. Jordan according to that judgment and it violates Chinese trademark law as well , which should be revoked immediately. Meanwhile QiaoDan and the Pinyin of 乔丹（qiaodan） still remain lawful. Jordan has welcomed the decision which overturns previous rulings against him through Britain and American mainstream press: I am happy that the Supreme People’s Court has recognized the right to protect my name through its ruling in the trademark cases. We can understand his feeling as this Marathon legal case has been costing more than 5 years to get that final decision.
Introduce of this case:
The basketball star M.Jordan first started legal action against QiaoDan Sports in 2012 about abusing his name and image without any authority;
This case was brought to the front of second intermediate Court of Shanghai on 5th March, 2012;
M.Jordan started more than 80 Administrative legal disputes against related registered trademarks which all belonged to QiaoDan Sport on Oct, 2012; QiaoDan Sport and National Trademark Review & Adjudication Board (NTRAB) were involved. 78 cases was heard by Beijing first intermediate Court;
M.Jordan started another case against QiaoDan Sport and Bairen Trading business about abusing his name on 27th April, 2013.
QiaoDan Sport started a legal case through intermediate Court of Quanzhou and blackmailed M.Jordan on the number of 8 million dollars on 29th April, 2013;
The intermediate court of Beijing sentenced this case as: 乔丹is only a normal surname in America, thus QiaoDan Sport was considered as not violating M. Jordan’s name or other rights;
M. Jordan unsatisfied to the result about the administrative judgment and appealed this case up to the higher Court of Beijing in 8th May, 2015;
M.Jordan failed in the second trail on 27th July, 2015;
Supreme court of China (P.R.) started reviewing 10 cases from 68 cases on Dec 2015;
Supreme court started a final trail among M. Jordan, QiaoDan Sport and NTRAB, which had lasted for more than 4 hours (real rare in China);
Supreme Court declared the final judgment and M. Jordan won this case.
This is a milestone in Chinese legal history of trademark.
This is a huge and rare victory for foreign brands winning a legal case in China. Thus New York Time believe this case reflects Chinese government starts solving trademark issues about infringement; besides this case provides foreign business and famous persons with some reference to solve similar problems.
However this case is not a complete victory. BBC has reported that we just get partial success in the case even though Qiaodan Sport has been sentenced against the law indeed. That is because Qiaodan Sport is not allowed to use the Chinese character 乔丹 but can use the Pinyin of QIAODAN as its trademark as well. In addition, in June 2017, the application of the administration appeal that Qiaodan Sport asked China’s Supreme People’s Prosecutor for retrial for Case No. 26, 27,31 of supreme law (2016) sentenced by Supreme People’s Court in December 7th, 2016 was approved. This issue helps the case on the trademark of Qiaodan Sport return to the public’s vision.
People familiar with China’s business ecosystem must know that Qiaodan Sport in its trademark case might be aggrieved but it never be the only. Most famous foreign companies such as Apple, Starbucks or the American President Donald Trump have met with some legal disputes in China because of their relevant Chinese name having been registered as trademarks. For example, in May 2016, a manufacturer of sport shoes New Balance was prosecuted and demanded compensation for CNY 98,000,000 for infringement of trademark “新百伦” Zhou Lelun having registered. Later, the court made the second trail and reduce the aggregate amount of compensation from original CNY 98,000,000 to CNY5,000,000.
The crime and enlightenment in the case on Qiaodan Sport
Qiaodan Sport has developed from an industry in Jinjiang, Fujian Province to a sport brand upgrading Initial Public Offerings(IPO), with annual revenue over CNY one billion. The development of Qiaodan Sport is very a miniature of Chinese unhealthy business ecosystem.
In this period of economy development speeding up, many entrepreneurs founded their brands in a so-called easier way. The way of founding a brand is various, such as borrowing the brand from the names of stars or some well-known brands. A phenomenon that entrepreneurs register previously, copy or imitate those domestic or foreign famous brands if there were any bug in their trademark system. Reasons for this phenomenon are complex. But obviously, the major factor is that entrepreneurs want to get profits more conveniently. Meanwhile, it is a symbol that most Chinese entrepreneurs eager in making profits and lack of confidence in their own brand founding and the government eager for maximizing the economic profits in the early time and lack of attention on IPR protection. All above-mentioned reason make a kind of copycat culture pop out in Chinese commercial market.
The case of the trademark of Qiaodan Sport has too much experience for us entrepreneurs. Domestic entrepreneurs are suggested to develop their own brands. Relying on other existing famous brands, temporary development of profits would come indeed, but legal risks and loss might follow as well. It would be a so-called Achilles’ Heel in the latter development. For foreign entrepreneurs must decide strategic layout for major trademark and make trademark front of capitals if they interest in developing or broadening Chinese market. This ensures that they are more competitive and safeguard their rights of name, trade name and copyright as well as patent right, ect while infringement occurs.