Photographer sues Nike over use of famous Michael Jordan logo

Sunday January 25th, 2015

A photographer is suing Nike in federal court, alleging that the sneaker company used his work to make its famous "Jumpman" logo of Michael Jordan's silhouette.

Jacobus Rentmeester is accusing Nike of violating the copyright on a 1984 image he took of Jordan by using it to market its famous "Jumpman" logo. In the image, Jordan is wearing his Olympic warm-ups in 1984 as he soars toward the hoop for a dunk. The image bears a resemblance to the Jumpman logo, which is a silhouette of a player reaching out to dunk in a similar fashion.

"Mr. Rentmeester created the pose, inspired by a ballet technique known as a 'grand jete,' a long horizontal jump during which a dancer performs splits in mid-air," the lawsuit says, according to ESPN. "The pose, while conceived to make it appear that Mr. Jordan was in the process of a dunk, was not reflective of Mr. Jordan's natural jump or dunking style."

Rentmeester, of New York City, is filing the lawsuit in Portland, Ore. Nike is an Oregon-based company.

The photographer is seeking unspecified monetary damages, profits generated from the photo and an injunction preventing further copyright infringement.

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According to the Associated Press, Rentmeester shot the photo for Life magazine as part of a special section on the 1984 Summer Olympics. Nike paid him $150 for temporary use of two transparencies of the photo, and as a freelancer, Rentmeester also retained the rights to the copyright.

Rentmeester says that Nike produced a nearly identical image of Jordan and used it on billboards. After he threatened litigation, Nike paid him $15,000 for a limited license to use the image for two years beginning in 1985.

The lawsuit says Nike continued to reproduce the logo after that period, using it to create the logo for their Jumpman brand. Nike created a Jordan Brand division, which uses the logo to market Michael Jordan products.

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A Nike spokesman said the company is not commenting on the lawsuit, according to the Associated Press.

Federal copyright law allows copyright claims to be brought within three years of an infringing act. But in May 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a similar case that a delay in filing a copyright claim doesn't prevent the seeking of damages as long as the alleged copyright infringement continues.

Mike Fiammetta

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