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Back in 2012, news was made when Michael Jordan asked Chinese authorities to revoke the trademark of Chinese sportswear company Qiaodan Sports Co. The legal issue stems from the Chinese translation of the American name “Jordan,” which, you guessed it, is “Qiaodan.” According to a recent report, Michael Jordan has lost that case as it has been dismissed.

Though the photo of the Qiaodan shoe in the lead image more or less looks like a New Balance model with heel branding derivative of the Jumpman, as discussed earlier there’s stated issue with the similarity of name. On top of that, there’s obvious opportunity for MJ with business in China. Simply put, having an existing brand with a similar name, big or small, could be confusing for consumers and thus bad for Jordan Brand’s business in China.

While Jordan Brand is still flourishing to say the least, the opportunity for any American sportswear company to do more business in China is booming and being explored actively as many major US sportswear companies have sent their athletes on media tours in China this summer and previous ones as well. Just the same, Chinese based sportswear companies have been signing NBA athletes to deals over the course of the last decade to build their profile back home.

Having studied abroad in China, I can say firsthand that the appetite, appreciation and interest in both basketball and American culture is incredibly high. The knowledge about NBA stars among Chinese fans is remarkable, which it makes it interesting to think that most fans could be duped into thinking a Qiaodan product had actual ties to Michael Jordan. According to an article from Yahoo! News, the fact that “Jordan” also serves as a first name in American culture and that the logo bears no features striking to MJ all held weight in the case being dismissed.

Though this case took place overseas, it’s really nothing new as similar issues have come up Stateside. When Air Jordans really began to boom in the 1990s in the US, it was not uncommon to see discounters and department stores in the US sell athletic shoes with silhouette driven logos clearly inspired by the Jumpman. As a kid, I even recall seeing department store ads in the Sunday paper referring to their shoes as “Mike’s sneakers” when they were of no Air Jordan variety. Though vague, that always seemed ultra-obvious and too far to me. Needless to say, there will always be wiggle room to operate and the area will always be grayer in reference to translated names and international copyright laws.

While the article points out that trade partners have long criticized China’s laws regarding intellectual property, it also states that there has been some improvement.

So, while Qiaodan will keep its name, is it still all good if there are no design or marketing similarities to that of Air Jordan or does the translation and root in sportswear still poise an issue? If you feel inclined, let us know your take in the comments section.

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