Michael Jordan wins trademark battle against Chinese company using his name

Society & Culture

The China Sports Column is a SupChina weekly feature. 

China’s Supreme Court has ruled in favor of NBA legend Michael Jordan after an eight-year legal fight with Chinese sportswear company Qiao Dan.

But while the court ruled Qian Dan had illegally used Jordan’s name — Jordan is “Qiáo Dān 乔丹” in Chinese — it decided that Qiao Dan had not infringed on Jordan’s “Jumpman” logo:

Qiao DanJumpman logo

The logo was referred to the State Intellectual Property Office for a retrial, meaning the case may continue.

Jordan initially brought the case before Chinese courts in 2012. Back in 2016, Jordan won a small victory in the Supreme Court, which barred Qiao Dan from using the Chinese characters — 乔丹 — but allowed the continued use of the pinyin “Qiao Dan.”

Since the ruling in 2016, the Chinese courts also ruled in favor of New Balance against three local shoemakers over the “N” logo. The court awarded the company $1.5 million, believed to be the most for a foreign company in a trademark dispute.

Trademarks and intellectual property protection are a vital part of the first phase of the U.S.-China trade talks agreed upon in January. In the agreement, China vowed to increase protections on IP.

Fresh off the ruling, China Daily jumped on the decision to use it as “an example of how the country provides equal intellectual property rights protection and an optimized business environment to foreign litigants.”

Qiao Dan responded on Weibo that the latest ruling “would not impact the normal use of its other existing trademarks, nor would it affect normal business operations.”


Sun Yang’s performance in CAS hearing rated “one out of 10” by lawyer

Jeffrey Benz, a sports lawyer who frequently works as a  Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) arbitrator, joined a panel for The Beijing News on Sunday alongside Chinese sports reporter Wang Qinbo and Chinese sports lawyer Cai Guo to discuss the Sun Yang case.

Asked to rate how Sun did at his CAS hearing last November, Benz had this to say, as reported by the South China Morning Post: “Unfortunately, I can’t go lower than a zero, but I’d have to give them a one.”

Benz told the panel that he was shocked at how unprofessional the Sun legal team was at the beginning of the trail, which was hurt by translation issues.

“It seems to me that somehow Nixon and Kissinger successfully met with Zhou Enlai and Mao back in 1972, and there must be good interpreters available between English and Mandarin, and he chose these people,” Benz said in the video call.

In addition to criticizing the translation problems, Benz also questions the swimmer’s decision on his counsel. The lawyer praised the quality of the CAS choice of Richard Young. But Sun went with an unknown: Ian Meakin.

“[Richard Young is] one of a handful of lawyers where you would really say, ‘Wow, that person is really the anti-doping guru in the world,’” Benz said. “Rich is the one who is widely credited with drafting the world anti-doping code. You know I tend to get used a fair amount with CAS, and I don’t know Ian Meakin.”

Sun was banned from all swimming competitions for eight years last November for obstructing testers in his home.

Olympic swimmer Sun Yang gets eight-year doping ban


World Table Tennis Championships on the chopping block

The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) is considering canceling the individual portion of the World Championships as part of an overhaul to the ping-pong competition calendar.

The World Table Tennis Championships have been held since 1926, with team and individual World Championships alternating years since 1999. The next individual World Championships is scheduled for 2021 in Houston.

But the ITTF has been mulling the idea of playing three to four “Grand Smashes” every year, similar to “majors” in tennis and golf. The goal is “to modernize its commercial business activities and, ultimately, unlock the full potential of table tennis so that it can compete among the highest-profile sports in the world.”

ITTF CEO Steve Dainton wrote that the individual Championships, the biennial event that crowns the top player in the world, could be overshadowed by the Grand Smashes.

Not surprisingly, the Grand Smashes format seeks to capitalize on the vast Chinese market. In the history of World Table Tennis Championships, as of 2019, China has twice the number of medals (407) than the next closest country, Hungary (202).


Stephon Marbury back in Beijing

The Wall Street Journal has a story today about Stephon Marbury’s impressively fast response to COVID-19:

Stephon Marbury saw what the coronavirus had done to China. So on March 8, the National Basketball Association star-turned-Chinese sports hero decided to sound the alarm bell. He sent an email to NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

“The games have to stop now,” Marbury wrote from Westchester, N.Y., where he was visiting. “The game won’t be fun if people die.”

Marbury, who now coaches the Chinese Basketball Association’s Beijing Royal Fighters, worried that packed arenas would spread the virus. He begged Silver: “Please be the one to make the hard, easy decision.”

Silver thanked Marbury for his perspective, replied that the league was developing contingency plans and consulting with public-health experts, but remained noncommittal. Three days later, he didn’t have a choice. The first NBA player had tested positive, and Silver abruptly suspended the season.

The China basketball legend is back in Beijing, preparing for the resumption of the Chinese Basketball Association season, which could happen as early as next month. Marbury is coach of the Beijing Royal Fighters, currently sitting in a five-way tie for 4th place.

The China Sports Column runs every week on SupChina.