Following a major win in a trademark case at the Chinese Supreme People’s Court in December, former National Basketball Association star Michael Jordan and law firm Fangda Partners were recently sued in Beijing by manufacturer Qiaodan Sportswear Co.
According to the official website of the Beijing Higher Court, the case was prompted by a letter sent by Fangda on behalf of Jordan to the Tianjin Municipal Administration of Sports and the organizers of the 13th National Games of China, which will be held in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin this fall.
Qiaodan Sportswear accused Fangda and Jordan of twisting content from the Supreme Court decision and misleading the National Games organizers in an attempt to stop them from working with Qiaodan Sportswear. The Quanzhou, Fujian province-based company has filed suit against both Jordan and Fangda at the Beijing Chaoyang District court, demanding renminbi 1.1 million, or $160,000, in damages and fees. The court has agreed to hear the case.
In December 2016, the top Chinese court ruled in a landmark decision that Jordan owned the trademark rights to his name in Chinese characters. A five-judge panel at the Supreme Court overturned the registration of three Qiaodan Sportswear trademarks on grounds that the company was free riding off the retired NBA star’s popularity among Chinese consumers.
Qiaodan Sportswear, however, claimed in the most recent case that Jordan has over the years brought 78 cases against the company’s trademarks. So far, the former Chicago Bulls shooting guard has won three and lost the rest. But the letter sent to the National Games intentionally misled others to think that all of Qiaodan Sportswear’s disputed trademarks were revoked, according to the court’s website.
The Chinese company said based on an assessment made by a third party, Qiaodan Sportswear suffered reputational loss since Jordan and Fangda sent the letter. Alongside monetary damages, the plaintiff has also demanded a retraction of the letter and a public apology.
Shanghai-based Fangda Partners has been representing Jordan in a series of disputes in China related to his name since 2012. Partners Qi Fang and Tian Tian led the team that helped Jordan win the Supreme Court decision. The firm declined to comment on the suit over the National Games letter.
Jordan, who has long been advised on litigation matters in the U.S. by Schiff Hardin, is no stranger to high-powered legal entanglements. Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz advised Jordan in 2010 on his $275 million purchase of the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats, now called the Hornets, and in retirement the ex-player has become one of the league’s most powerful owners.