After a lawsuit that has lasted five years, Michael Jordan has finally been given the rights to the Chinese version of his name.

China’s Supreme People’s Court, the highest in the country, ruled last week that the NBA superstar can have his name 乔丹 (pronounced “Chee-ow-dahn”) back from retailer and family run business Qiaodan Sports. The company is based in Fujian province.

Qiaodan Sports registered the trademark over a decade ago, and in 2012 when Jordan filed a lawsuit to prevent them from using his name further. He sought to have the retailer’s trademark registrations removed, but to Jordan’s dismay, the lower courts ruled in favor of the retailer. Jordan was denied access to the rights to his own name. A Beijing court concluded that “Jordan” is a common surname of many Americans, adding that the logo Qiaodan Sports used had no facial features.

Eventually, Jordan’s legal team pushed to the bring the case to China’s top court to ensure the player gained the rights to what was rightfully his. Thankfully for Jordan, the hearing at the Supreme People’s Court concluded in his favor. The basketball player told Reuters:

“I am happy that the Supreme People’s Court has recognized the right to protect my name through its ruling in the trademark cases. Chinese consumers deserve to know that Qiaodan Sports and its products have no connection to me.”

In a statement after the ruling, the company defended its actions but said it would respect the court’s decision.

But then again, it must be stressed that the company will only surrender its registration of 乔丹. It can still use Qiaodan, the pinyin (romanized) version, Shanghaiist said.

The case reflects the difficulties faced by foreign individuals and companies in protecting their copyrights in China, where domestic firms have long taken a cavalier attitude toward intellectual property.

Jed Ferdinand, Founder and SMP at Ferdinand IP, commented by saying:

“The Michael Jordan decision is a big step for American brand owners seeking to protect their marks in China. For years, American companies have been ripped off by Chinese companies who race to the Chinese Trademark Office and file trademark applications before the legitimate trademark owners.”
Ferdinand continued, “This practice, known as trademark squatting, has left American brand owners with the difficult choices of being shut of the Chinese market, paying essentially a ransom to the counterfeiters to get their own marks back, or having to resort to the Chinese legal system, which is difficult, expensive and typically ruled for the Chinese entities. Hopefully, the Michael Jordan decision is a very positive step that the Chinese trademark authorities are finally recognizing the problem and are willing to change the status quo.”