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Michael Jordan Scores Legal Slam Dunk in China

After years of legal wrangling, Michael Jordan has scored a historic legal victory in China that may have broader implications on the future of trademarks in the country.

China’s top court ruled Wednesday that the basketball legend has the right to his own name in the country, the result of a trademark dispute filed with the Chinese company Qiaodan Sports Co. in 2012

Qiaodan, which is simply Jordan’s last name in Chinese, had registered the name and used it to sell a wide variety of Jordan brand goods, including footwear and the player’s famous number 23 jersey.

The ruling by the Supreme People’s Court requires that Qiaodan give up the rights to the Chinese spelling of Qiaodan (乔丹), which is widely recognized throughout the country.

The court did, however, allow the company to continue to use “Qiaodan” in roman letters, saying in its ruling that “there was not sufficient evidence to show that Chinese consumers associated” that spelling of Qiaodan with Jordan products.

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

The case is a milestone in a country where foreign brands have long struggled against local companies who own the Chinese trademarks of their names. The decision by China’s Supreme Court potentially sets precedent for protecting personal names in trademark cases going forward.