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Nike serves slam dunk over Jordan photo

Written by Ellis Sweetenham on 02 March 2018

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Global sports brand has succeeded in defending a photo copyright claim which involves Michael Jordan.

Michael Jordan, the basketball superstar, has collaborated with Nike since 1984 to create the Air Jordan brand. To represent this, the ‘Jumpman’ logo is used. This is a silhouette of Jordan jumping with an arm in the air.

This image was the point of contention in the case as photographer Jacobus Rentmeester has accused Nike of copying his image of Jordan.

Rentmeester’s photo, taken in 1984, shows Jordan leaping towards a basketball hoop with a basketball raised above his head in his left hand, as if he is attempting to dunk the ball.

Not long after the release of the photo in Life Magazine, Nike commissioned their own photo of the basketball star, one inspired by Rentmeester’s image. This was used to create the silhouette Jumpman logo.  The logo has been in use since 1987 and has become one of Nike’s most recognisable brands.

In 2015, Rentmeester filed a claim for copyright infringement in respect of the Jumpman logo and Nike’s image.

Nike succeeded in filing a motion to dismiss the claim, arguing that there was no copyright infringement in either the image or logo.

The photographer appealed against decision and the matter was heard by the Ninth Circuit court.

Circuit Judge, Paul Watford, who considered the case held that while there was similarity in the pose displayed in the images, the differences in the background and lighting renders the images not confusingly similar.

Therefore, Nike has seen success and are jumping for joy, securing one of their most successful brands.

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