Lawsuit against Nike use of Jumpman logo fails in federal court

Written By:  •  Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Back in 2015, we shared the news about how Nike was being sued for copyright infringement, with the main argument being that the sports apparel giant proceeded to use the silhouette for their Jordan Brand “Jumpman” image without the permission of photographer Jacobus Rentmeester.

According to ESPN, Rentmeester was asking for “profits associated with the Jordan brand” and also wanted to stop all current sales and future plans if his lawsuit succeeded. Again, this was 28 years after Rentmeester allowed Nike to use the Jumpman logo on advertisements after threatening to sue way back then, so this was like a ghost coming back to haunt Nike.

For reference’s sake, here’s the two silhouettes in question placed side-by-side.

The litigation has come to a close and the ghost has been sent back to the other realm. The AP is reporting that a federal court has ruled in favor of Nike, Here’s one of the judges writing the reasoning behind the decision.

While the poses in Nike and Rentmeester’s photos are similar — Jordan in a leaping motion inspired by a ballet move — Rentmeester’s copyright does not give him a monopoly on that concept, Judge Paul Watford, writing for the majority, said.

Among the significant differences in the two photos are the position of Jordan’s legs, the background and lighting, Watford said.

“Just as Rentmeester made a series of creative choices in the selection and arrangement of the elements in his photograph, so too Nike’s photographer made his own distinct choices in that regard.”

There you have it. When this story first came up, I was pretty skeptical about the success of this lawsuit in court and sure enough, Nike ended up coming out of this unscathed. They’ll be allowed to use the Jumpman logo on whatever they see fit and life goes on without too much of a change for them.



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Demetrius Bell

Demetrius is an avid sports fan, a dedicated student of the uniform and logo game, and a prolific user of twitter. You can follow him at @fergoe and read his personal blog at fittedcapfiend.blogspot.com