Company ‘Illegal’ To Register Michael Jackson Trademark

Sources: China.org. cn – By Zhang Rui | All Things Michael

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Beijing Daily reported that, in early November, the Beijing Intellectual Property Court gave its verdict that a China’s fashion company acted illegally when it rush-registered the name of Michael Jackson as a Chinese trademark.

Triumph International, Inc., a wholly-owned merchandise licensing company owned by the estate of the late singer, filed the complaint against Fujian Funson Fashion Corp. Ltd. which registered “Michael Jackson” as their own apparel trademark. Triumph called it a “malicious action.”

However, the Chinese company argued that the “Michael Jackson” trademark was just a name and had nothing to do with the pop singer, and it had produced and sold several products including a cleansing foam using the singer’s images and likeness in their promotion.

The Trademark Review & Adjudication Board had decided that, according to China’s trademark law, though Jackson had enjoyed prior rights, the singer was dead so that the subject to be protected doesn’t exist anymore. The board, therefore, maintained the usage right of the trademark by the Chinese company.

Triumph International then filed the suit with the Beijing Intellectual Property Court, seeking reversal of the Board’s decision.

It was argued in court that Jackson, being dead, no longer enjoyed rights to his name and Triumph International didn’t have standing to sue on his behalf.

However, the court decided to accept the company’s evidence that, although the singer had passed away on June 25, 2009, his name and likeness still have outstanding economic value. Hence, the Chinese company was clearly seeking economic gain when it frequently used Jackson’s name and images on their trademark designs and products, though it had nothing to do with the singer. This action was likely to mislead the public into thinking the products were licensed by Jackson himself or affiliated with his company, creating a wrong assumption regarding the qualities and sources of products and services and harm the public interest.

The court, therefore, revoked the board’s decision and asked it to review and make a new decision according to Triumph International’s appeal.

Former basketball superstar Michael Jordan also encountered a similar trademark dispute with a Chinese sports firm earlier this year. The former Chicago Bulls star sued Qiaodan Sports in 2012, saying the sportswear firm in southern Fujian Province had built its business around his Chinese name and famous jersey number “23” without his permission.

Qiaodan Sports said the trademark was legally registered in China and protected by domestic law. It countersued Jordan for violating Qiaodan Sports’ reputation.

The Trademark Review & Adjudication Board decided in 2014 that “Jordan” was a normal name in English and “Qiaodan” differed from it, while the likeness used in Qiaodan trademark design was not particularly intended to point to or resemble Jordan himself.

A Beijing intermediate court ruled in favor of Qiaodan over the dispute in February, 2015, and this ruling was upheld by the Beijing Municipal High People’s Court in June. However, the basketball star vowed to take the matter to China’s Supreme Court, a spokesman for Jordan’s legal team said.

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