By Rick Horrow and Karla Swatek
March 2, 2012
Registering for a trademark in China is relatively cheap and easy, and favors those who register first, regardless of their intention to use it. This has created headaches for Nike, which currently is fighting battles on behalf of both Michael Jordan and Jeremy Lin. Don’t be mistaken… millions of dollars are at stake.
Qiaodan Sports claims to own the exclusive right to MJ’s Chinese name, and sells branded merchandise in 5,700 Chinese stores. The company posted $270 million in revenue in the first half of last year. Meanwhile, Wuxi Risheng Sports Utility registered Lin’s name as a trademark in July 2010, a year-and-a-half before he burst onto the scene with the Knicks. Risheng paid $700 for the trademark, and could sell it back to Lin and Nike for millions of dollars.
The problem is that China allows this trademark squatting to happen. Unless and until the system is overhauled, companies and athletes will continue to have difficultly controlling their image and likeness in China. Given the country’s burgeoning economy, this could be a huge missed opportunity for retailers.