Michael Jordan has had enough! The former Basketball Jesus and current Charlotte Bobcats owner filed a lawsuit in Beijing today against Qiaodan (乔丹), a Chinese athletic shoe and apparel company that has blatantly used the Chinese transliteration of Jordan’s surname for years.
An entire website has been set up to state the facts of the case, with Jordan filming a video to state his case. A partial transcript was released in a PR statement of the case:
“During my basketball career and now as a businessman, I’ve worked hard to establish my identity and brand, and I take tremendous pride in the shoes and apparel that feature my name and logo.
“It is deeply disappointing to see a company build a business off my Chinese name without my permission, use the number 23 and even attempt to use the names of my children. I am taking this action to preserve ownership of my name and my brand.
“We live in a competitive marketplace, and Chinese consumers, like anyone else, have a huge amount of choice when it comes to buying clothing, shoes and other merchandise. Chinese fans have always been very supportive of me, and that’s something I deeply appreciate. I think they deserve to know what they are buying.
“This complaint is not about money. It’s about principle and protecting my name. Any monetary awards I might receive will be invested in growing the sport of basketball in China.”
Though it’s easy to relate with a man trying to protect his business interests and something so basic as his own name (Liv Tyler can probably relate, what with a French Concession clothing store bearing her name and all), we’ve often found it hard to get mad at shanzhai shysters hustling in developing markets.
Companies spreading the great light of Western Cultural Imperialism™, what with its damned heartwarming Disney cartoons and ridiculously amazing basketball players, penetrates into the hearts of minds of citizens living outside of the first world, and then sets high prices for their officially licensed product? The logic of the market always means counterfeiters will come in to fill public demand.
Still, Jordan has every right to protect his last name. Given the fact that shoes emblazoned with the Jumpman logo still have the ability to drive people nuts, Jordan is more than justified in trying to shut down his competitors.
And what competitors they are! The Financial Times’ Beyond Brics blog reported on Qiaodan after the company sought a public listing in December:
Qiaodan is a sportswear maker based in southeastern China which has just received approval for an equity listing in Shanghai. The family-controlled company with sales of Rmb2.9bn ($460m) last year has become one of the country’s top 10 domestic sports apparel companies by revenue and number of outlets, despite its relatively short 11-year history.
In 2000, it reinvented itself as Qiaodan, the Chinese name given to Michael Jordan, the legendary US basketball star who has a massive fan base in the country – despite the fact that Qiaodan is also the name used in China by Nike for its range of “Air Jordan” shoes and apparel.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Lin’s own private business linterests are also relevant to the eventual outcome of Jordan’s lawsuit, since a Chinese company is now trying to cash in on having registered Lin’s Chinese name (林书豪) in 2010. Expect a lawsuit for linappropriate usage of Jeremy’s name soon!