Whenever one talks about sport shoes the brand NIKE immediately comes to mind. It is one of the most popular brands and also has releases exclusive editions of shoes for different sports. One such edition is JUMPMAN. This edition was created in 1980s, after Hall of Fame basketball player Michael Jordan entered into a deal with NIKE for a special edition of shoes as well as apparels.
Through decades the JUMPMAN logo has been recognized by the logo of Jordan’s image sailing towards the basket in a grand ballet inspired pose with a basketball in the left hand. With more than a million products sold, JUMPMAN has now become a household name.
However, in January 2015, a well known American photographer, Jacobus Rentmeester claimed that the JUMPMAN logo has been aped from a picture he had taken on Jordan for a special edition of Life magazine, for the 1984 Summer Olympics. The photograph produced by him showed Jordan in a pose which was similar to the photograph created by Nike where Jordan was jumping with the Chicago Skyline in the background. This picture was eventually used for the JUMPMAN logo.
Rentmeester argued that the he retained the copyright over the photograph even though he was working as a contracted photographer. NIKE paid $150 dollars to Rentmeester for two transparencies which were to be used for the purpose of company presentations only. Rentmeester also stated that later NIKE had entered into a two year license agreement, but continued to utilize the picture in advertisements and as the JUMPMAN logo after the date of expiry. Even though the photograph was copyrighted once published, Rentmeester could only sue after December 18, 2014, the date of registration with U.S. Copyright Office.
The U.S. Federal Court while analyzing both photographs stated that Rentmeester’s photograph would only be entitled to thin copyright protection, owing to the fact that there were very few ways the idea in the photograph could be expressed. Secondly, the Court analyzed whether the two photographs were substantially similar. It concluded that there were substantial differences in both pictures, once all the unprotected elements had been weeded out. Besides the backdrop of the red and purple Chicago skyline being different from the grassy hill, blue sky backdrop in Rentmeester’s photograph, the Court pointed out that Michael Jordan’s very pose in both the photographs was also different.
For these reasons the Court dismissed the suit and held that no copyright infringement had taken place.
Contributed by Matisa Majumder.