A Chinese sportswear chain is throwing its legal dispute with Michael Jordan back into his court.
Qiaodan Sports Co. said Tuesday it countersued the U.S. basketball star for damages in a Chinese court, claiming Mr. Jordan tarnished the retailer's reputation in China and unraveled its plans to publicly list in Shanghai. Closely held Qiaodan, which is based in the coastal province of Fujian and has more than 6,000 outlets, is seeking damages of $8 million, according to the company's legal representative, Ma Dongxiao.
The basketball star, who won six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls, sued Qiaodan in China in February 2012, alleging it had profited by illegally using his name on its marketing materials and products since the 1980s. Mr. Jordan's Chinese name is Qiaodan, pronounced approximately as cheow-DAN in Mandarin.
Mr. Jordan hasn't received notice regarding Qiaodan's countersuit, said a spokeswoman for Mr. Jordan's legal representatives.
Qiaodan Sports is demanding an apology from Mr. Jordan, asking him to stop infringing the company's rights to operate freely in China, Mr. Ma said. The case has been accepted for hearing in the Quanzhou City Intermediate People's Court in Fujian, Mr. Ma said. The case was accepted April 2, the company said.
Mr. Jordan's 2012 suit is under way in the Shanghai People's Intermediate Court and there has been no verdict to date, Mr. Jordan's spokeswoman said.
Mr. Jordan doesn't hold a registered trademark for his Chinese name in China, but legal experts said that might not matter.
Chinese law generally protects parties who hold registrations and who file early for them. But a provision says businesses can't freely use the names of famous people, even if the people don't have registered trademarks.
Qiaodan Sports said last year it has the exclusive right to the Qiaodan trademark and is operating 'in accordance with Chinese laws.' The company first registered for the rights to use the moniker in 1997, when it applied to use the name with the logo of a baseball player at bat, according to the trademark office of China's State Administration for Industry and Commerce.
Mr. Ma said Qiaodan Sports has been unable to publicly list its stock due to the negative perceptions created by the legal battle. The company was planning to raise 1.1 billion yuan ($175 million) for expansion in China.
Naming rights and trademarks have been thorny issues for companies selling goods in China. Last year, Apple Inc. paid $60 million for rights to the iPad name in China after a series of lawsuits and countersuits with a Chinese company that registered the trademark before Apple. In 2005, what is now General Motors Co. reached a settlement with Chery Automobile Co. after GM said the Chinese company's name was too similar to 'Chevy,' the nickname for GM's Chevrolet brand.