Austin TX Business Law Blog

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Michael Jordan Wins International Trademark Dispute

How can I protect my trademark abroad?

Retired NBA all-star Michael Jordan recently prevailed in a long-running trademark dispute in China.  Michael Jordan initially filed suit against Qiaodan Sports Co. in 2012, alleging that the company’s use of the name “Qiaodan” infringed on his right to his own name and violated trademark law.  Qiaodan is Jordan’s name translated in Chinese.  The people of China widely refer to Jordan as Qiaodan.  Qiaodan Sports Co. marketed a line of sportswear and shoes with the name and other references to Jordan, such as his jersey number and even names of his children.  The company applied for a trademark for the name Qiaodan, but Jordan soon took action. 

In an important ruling that lays out the groundwork for protecting personal names through international trademarks, a Chinese court held that Qiaodan Sports Co. violated Jordan’s trademark to his personal name.  The chief judge stated that there was an established link between Jordan and the Chinese name “Qiaodan.”  However, the court limited protection to the Chinese characters “Qiaodan,” and not Roman letters.

International Trademark Law

Trademark rights are granted on a country-by-country basis.  When you register your trademark in the United States, you will have trademark rights in the U.S. alone.  However, there are several international treaties that will help to protect your trademark internationally.  Seeking and enforcing your trademark internationally is complex and all trademark holders should consult with an Austin, Texas trademark attorney for assistance.

To obtain international protections for your trademark, you must first register your trademark in a country that belongs to the Madrid Treaty.  The Madrid Treaty has been in existence for decades.  When you register in a country that is a part of the Madrid Treaty, you can then request that your country’s trademark office submit your registration to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).  If accepted, your trademark is then registered with the WIPO.  However, this alone does not protect your trademark internationally.  Rather, once you have a WIPO registration number, the WIPO can send your application to dozens of other countries so that you will receive widespread trademark protections.  

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