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A Chinese Internet cartoonist is fighting athletic shoemaker Nike over a stick figure, state media reported Friday. Zhu Zhiqiang has filed a lawsuit asking for 2 million yuan (U.S. $240,000) in compensation from Nike as well as a public apology for copying his “Little Match Man” illustration in one of its worldwide ad campaigns, the China Daily said. Nike’s “Stickman” was a “pirated a logo of my serial Flash works,” Zhu, 28, was quoted as saying in the newspaper. Flash is a type of computer software. The Beaverton, Ore.-based Nike denied Zhu’s claim. “The small man figure created by the plaintiff and his gestures are absolutely different from Nike’s Stickman,” the China Daily quoted Nike’s Chinese lawyer, Zhang Zaiping, as saying. He added that Nike was “devoted” to the protection of intellectual property rights. He said the logo for the “Creativity in Sports” campaign was designed by an American advertising company in 2002 at a cost of 25 million yuan (US$3 million). The official Xinhua News Agency said Nike argued that the image is a common symbol not entitled to protection under copyright law. “From mural and stone paintings in ancient times to Sherlock Holmes stories, the logo has been used repeatedly,” Zhang was quoted as saying in the China Daily. Telephones rang unanswered at the Beijing First Intermediate People’s Court on Friday. Operators at Nike’s Beijing and Shanghai offices said relevant officials were not available. The case is an unusual reversal of roles for China, which has frequently been criticized by the United States for being lax about protecting patents and other intellectual property. The country’s thriving industry in product piracy routinely violates copyrights, trademarks and patents on movies, designer clothes and other goods, despite promises by Beijing to crack down. Zhu said he had been negotiating to release a book about his “Little Match Man” when the Nike advertisement was first broadcast in Beijing last year. Now, he said, negotiations are off. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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