Last week, Yao Ming announced that he has begun legal proceedings against Wuhan-based Yunhe Sharks Sportswear Co. for trademark infringement. For years, the sportswear company had been using Yao Ming’s brand to sell sneakers. It is unknown how much in damages Yao Ming is looking for.
This isn’t the first time Yao Ming has taken someone to court. Yao Ming’s name has been registered as a trademark as 2002. As soon as 2003, Yao Ming sued Coca-Cola, saying that that they infringed on his legal rights. However, that was just for 1 RMB and an apology from the company. These same demands seem very unlikely this time around. Yunhe Sharks Sportswear used his image to create and promote products that the Chinese basketball star had no connection to.
Yunhe is the creator of a brand called Yao Ming Era 姚明一代. The “Yao Ming Era,” which used the star’s likeness, signature and name in its promotional activities.
Thanks almost entirely to Yao Ming, the brand became quite popular in China. With this lawsuit, “We want to send out word that such infringements are not tolerated by Yao Ming,” said Lu Hao, a member of Yao’s legal team.
Let’s hope the internet meme “Yao Ming Face” doesn’t appear on their radar.
By Bo Hershey