Nike’s “Jumpman” logo is as synonymous with the athletic wear brand as its famous swoosh. Now, however, that indelible silhouette depicting a leaping Michael Jordan might be in danger. Jacobus Rentmeester has filed a lawsuit in an Oregon federal court claiming Nike committed copyright infringement by using one of his photographs of the NBA Hall of Famer without his permission to create its Jumpman logo, ESPN reports.
Rentmeester is asking for renumeration in the form of part of the billions in profits Nike’s Jumpman-branded items have earned, as well as a stoppage on current and future plans to sell the Jumpman items. This would greatly affect the company’s highly successful Jordan-brand line of items, including the famous sneakers.
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The lawsuit says Nike paid photographer Rentmeester $150 in August 1984 for temporary use of two 35mm transparencies of Jordan he shot for Life magazine, later returning the images lest the company be charged an additional $500.But by February 1985, the lawsuit says, Nike shot a photograph of a soaring Jordan in a scene that recreated key elements of the image Rentmeester took of Jordan when the future NBA Hall of Famer was still a student at the University of North Carolina.Rentmeester contacted Nike upon learning of its image and “Nike initially refused to speak with Mr. Rentmeester regarding the issue,” the lawsuit says, “and only responded to his repeated requests when Mr. Rentmeester threatened litigation.”The lawsuit says Nike paid Rentmeester $15,000 in March 1985 for a limited license to use the image of the soaring Jordan for two years.But Nike exceeded the agreement in marketing materials as well as creating, in 1987, the Jumpman logo — a silhouette inspired by the soaring image, the lawsuit says.
Nike has refused to comment about the litigation, as it continues to sell its Jumpman-branded goods. In 2014, the Jordan brand earned the company $3.2 billion in retail sales, ESPN reports.