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Chinese Firm Registers Jeremy Lin Trademark Without Star's Permission

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Published on Mar 21, 2012

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Jeremy Lin is the hottest new star of the NBA. The Taiwanese-American shot to global fame with the New York Knicks in 2011. But some of this recognition in China may be unwanted. A Chinese sports company took a gamble and registered Lin's name as a trademark about a year before he shot to stardom. Now the company is churning out Jeremy Lin branded basketballs, without the star's permission.

It gives a new meaning to the word "Linsanity." A basketball manufacturer in China registers Asian-American NBA star Jeremy Lin's name as a trademark, without his knowledge—for just 700 dollars.

The Wuxi Risheng Sports Utility Co discovered Lin before he shot to fame with the New York Knicks.

[Yu Minjie, President, Wuxi Risheng Sports Utility Co]:
"When I discovered Jeremy Lin, he was still studying in Harvard. At that time, he was representing Harvard during a basketball game. Back then, I found that he was a very clever and speedy player."

In July 2010 the company registered variations on Lin's Chinese name, "Lin Shuhao," and "Jeremy S.H.L." as trademarks in China.

[Yu Minjie, President, Wuxi Risheng Sports Utility Co]:
"I wanted to use his trademark to make basketballs. Even if he was not popular, I would have still have launched his products. Every year we are launching new products."

But in 2011 Lin shot to stardom and "Linsanity,"—a term Lin himself is applying for trade mark—was born.

[Yu Minjie, President, Wuxi Risheng Sports Utility Co]:
"Originally we were planning to launch his products at the beginning of this year. Now that he is suddenly so famous, we have to make the products better and of superior quality."

This use of Lin's name in China will no doubt anger Nike, Lin's official coorperate partner.

Nike signed a contract with Lin in 2010, and is launching Jeremy Lin shoes and a "Linsanity" line of clothing.

Horace Lam, a Beijing based intellectual property lawyer, says that according to China's copyright laws, what Risheng sports is doing is legal.

[Horace Lam, Partner at Jones Day Law Firm]:
"I think the reality is this company has already successfully registered the trademark in China for amongst other things, sporting equipment including basketballs and football and basketball jerseys etc. So they have the legal right to use that trademark in China."

If Lin or Nike want to buy the rights from Risheng sports to use Lin's Chinese name in China, they may have to pay a hefty sum.

This isn't the first time an NBA star has found a Chinese company using his name without permission.

Micheal Jordan recently discovered a Chinese company trading under the Chinese transliteration of his name—Qiaodan.

Qiaodan sports owns over five thousand stores across China, all trading under that name.

Jordan is taking his case to the courts.

So far Lin has not commented on his trademark problems in China.

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