The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

No matter the language or spelling, there’s only one Michael Jordan. Even in China.

A shopper walks past a Qiaodan Sports retail shop in Beijing. (Ng Han Guan/AP)

Not that there was much doubt, but there is, after all, only one Michael Jordan. China’s Supreme People’s Court ruled to that effect Thursday, handing His Airness a victory concerning the use of his name.

The country’s highest court revoked the right of a sportswear-maker Qiaodan Sports Co. to use Jordan’s last name written in Chinese characters, giving Jordan a partial victory in the quest to legally protect his name on his Nike apparel brand worldwide.

In announcing its ruling in a live online broadcast, the court said that Jordan’s Chinese name is “well-recognized” in China, according to Bloomberg, and that he should have the legal right to it. Qiaodan Sports, which is pronounced “Chee-ow-don,” is a family-owned business with about 6,000 sportswear shops in China. Jordan filed suit in 2012, but lower courts had ruled in favor of the Chinese company

LeBron James does water-bottle challenge during blowout of Knicks

“I am happy that the Supreme People’s Court has recognized the right to protect my name through its ruling in the trademark cases,” Jordan, the chief executive Nike’s Brand Jordan Division, said a statement. “Chinese consumers deserve to know that Qiaodan Sports and its products have no connection to me.”

Jordan’s win is significant because it shows that third parties who use Chinese characters of famous people and companies can be successfully challenged. It is unclear, though, whether companies like Apple, which lost a lawsuit earlier this year, are on the same level as Jordan, who was fighting for his personal name.

“Although this is an individual case, the impact of this will be quite extensive,” said Li Shunde, a research specialist in intellectual-property law at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a government think tank (via the New York Times). “I believe that foreign companies should be able to see this very clearly and this will enhance their continued investment or commercial activities in China as well as improve their expectations and confidence in this regard.”