Don't Celebrate Michael Jordan's Accomplishments, Or He Might Sue You For Trademark Infringement

from the connecting-with-fans? dept

Vinnie alerts us to a story out of Chicago, where two of the larger regional supermarket chains, Jewel and Dominick’s, recently put out ads congratulating Michael Jordan for all of his accomplishments (at the time of his induction into the NBA Hall of Fame). But, according to Jordan and his lawyer these newspaper ads celebrating Jordan’s accomplishments were actually trademark infringement. Now, it is true that there are certain publicity rights when it comes to celebrities and “endorsements,” but it’s hard to see how a congratulatory message from local Chicago grocers would be seen by any moron in a hurry as an “endorsement” (no matter how good his outside jumper might be). I guess the solution is just to stop recognizing Jordan’s achievements altogether.

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Companies: dominicks, jewel

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Comments on “Don't Celebrate Michael Jordan's Accomplishments, Or He Might Sue You For Trademark Infringement”

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Dark Helmet (profile) says:


“(no matter how good his outside jumper might be).”

Jordan was known for a lot of things, but outside shooting wasn’t the basis for his legacy. Early career slash and dunk, late career mid-range crossovers and fadeaways.

But, since Mike decided not to run with it, how’s this video for an NHL CwF (and for added benefit, I’m convinced they will get legal action taken against them by the movie/music studios for this…)

sehlat (profile) says:

Actually, it would seem he DOES have grounds here.

The article specifically mentions this:

In the Dominick’s ad, for example, the top half of the ad congratulates Jordan and features his trademark number, 23, while the bottom features a coupon on a Rancher’s Reserve steak, a trademark of Dominick’s parent company, Safeway.

So at least as far as Dominick’s is concerned, while I doubt anybody would actually see the ad as an endorsement by Jordan, the coupon makes the ad commercial use of his name, which (IANAL) would seem to make it clearly infringing.

The situation with Jewel’s may be similar, although all the report mentions is a congratulatory ad which ends with Jewel’s “just around the corner” slogan.

As a-dub said, “just put congrats Jordan and be done with it.”

harvardjanitor7 (profile) says:

Re: Let's not be stupid for a second


can you guys not all be sheep? if you actually LOOK at the ads, they clearly are using Michael Jordan’s name to advertise their product. they aren’t “celebrating” crap! they are retarded for thinking they would get away with this.

imagine if I put an ad that said “THIS GUY LOVES MY STEAK. BUY IT!” with a picture of YOU on it. wouldn’t you want to be reimbursed?

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Let's not be stupid for a second

That’s a clear commercial use of Jordan’s name. There’s a freaking coupon to go with it.

So? Why should that matter?

Imagine a massive marketing campaign by Loreal, to “celbrate Britney Spears’ new hair color”, totally just celebrating Britney’s hair color, no commercial association whatsoever .

Britney Spears hair color is not an accomplishment. I think anyone would agree that Michael Jordan’s career and Hall of Fame enshrinement is a clear accomplishment.

You do not convince anyone by first declaring everyone “stupid” and then using an analogy that is not even remotely analogous. Instead, you convince me that my original post was on the right track.

The Anti-Mike says:

Re: Re: Let's not be stupid for a second

Mike, this is another one where you are on the wrong side, and you just don’t get why.

If you want to celebrate Michael Jordan, you take out a full page add, celebrate him, and in much smaller print, say something like “Bob’s meat market wants to congratulate Michael Jordan” and keep it at that. These guys did not. The one ad shown in the complaint is clearly an ad for the business, their logo is front and center and right next to the #23 shoes. It’s a clear attempt to latch themselves onto someone popular, and in some ways could be taken to suggest that MJ has some sort of association or may approve of the company in some way.

Basically, the companies appear to have tried to not just congratulate MJ on his accomplishments, but also to profit from the implications of association with someone famous.

You are so far off on this one, IMHO.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Let's not be stupid for a second

Do you ever agree with anything Mike posts?

You seem to have missed the point. Let me help you out.

Yes, the grocers are trying to latch onto the popularity of Michael Jordan with an ad that includes his picture, some information about him, and their coupon and store information.

Here is the important part our fine Mr. Masnick is pointing out: First, it is dumb, as a celebrity who makes money off of having lots of fans, to lash out with your lawyers when someone uses your likeness. Even if they are doing something you do not like, you really need to lead off in a softer way to avoid lots of pres about you being a jerk and to keep an image of you being a “nice guy” (which is part of Michael Jordan’s image). Second, since the ads are pretty clearly not endorsements, it is unlikely that the legal route really has a great case in this particular instance. So, not only have you sent your lawyers after some small grocers (who may really have been big fans), but you have sent them out with a relatively bad argument that (even if it is winnable) makes you look like you are attacking someone for little or no reason.

The Anti-Mike says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Let's not be stupid for a second

Here is the important part our fine Mr. Masnick is pointing out: First, it is dumb, as a celebrity who makes money off of having lots of fans, to lash out with your lawyers when someone uses your likeness.

Okay, so you would think it acceptable next week that a chain of strip clubs uses his image, under the guise of congratulating him, to promote lap dances? They could redecorate the club to have his image all over, maybe change their name to “MJ’s sex emporium”, and he should just tolerate it because it would make him look bad to his fans to fight it?

You (and Mike) are making the biggest mistake possible, assuming that third parties can make a decision for a rights holder (in this case, personal image rights). You don’t get that choice, it is up to them. The grocer in this case greatly exceeded what is tolerated, and he earned the legal letter he got.

As a side note, Mike calls it a “nastygram”, which is in part an attempt to spin it as a bad thing. There has to be a line drawn in the sand on image use issues, and when someone goes over it, they get legal notification. It isn’t a nastygram, it’s just the first line of defense against something that could very easily get out of hand.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Let's not be stupid for a second

The POINT is… are you going to pay attention to it this time? There are ways of handling this that are BETTER FOR MICHAEL JORDAN. They are EASIER. They make him LOOK BETTER. They make HIS FANS HAPPIER. This has NOTHING to do with the grocery store.

To be more specific, he would look much better if he had just issued a statement saying “Just to clarify, I do not make any public endorsement of any grocery store. Thank you for the kind words in the newspaper.” That way Jordan gets the word out that he’s not endorsing them, he looks like a gentleman for being polite and thanking them, he gets more positive publicity, the grocery store doesn’t have to hire lawyers, the fans like it. Everybody is better off!

This way, even if A) he is correct and B) the grocery stores are money-grubbing raporists and C) this could possibly hurt future endorsements because people think they can print his number next to their business name without paying… is that really worth coming across as a total a-hole?

Finally… your strip club analogy is ridiculous and totally flawed. And I think you probably know that but would never admit it publicly, maybe not even to yourself.

OK finally finally, why do I even bother responding to you?

mjb5406 (profile) says:

Gotta Pay for that Messy Divorce

Yep… MJ, like his successor scumbucket Tiger, felt the need to use his celebrity to sleep aroun, and, like Tiger, was caught. Juanita got the kids and upwards of $50 million (and more than likely far more)… so, MJ, now that he is in the “sunset” of his life, needs to make up for that financial loss by this suit. Other retailers have done it, too… retailers much larger than Dominick’s (Safeway) and Jewel (SuperValu), so I guess he figures he’s got a better chance going after a smaller target.

What’s next? Time to count from 1 to 30…
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20,21, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30
He’ll copyright the number XXIII so you can’t use it anymore.

Anonymous Coward says:

“imagine if I put an ad that said “THIS GUY LOVES MY STEAK. BUY IT!” with a picture of YOU on it. wouldn’t you want to be reimbursed?”

if people came and asked who is that guy
and i would stand out side with my AD saying heres my website and then make a buck and both gain
yea see id find inventive ways to not involve them evil sneaky bastard lawyers

NOW if i didn’t like steak thats a different matter
of if im against the needless slaughter of animals that kinda stuff……

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