Chicago (KMSP) - The normal response to “congratulations” is “thanks.” But when a couple grocery chains congratulated Michael Jordan for making the Hall of Fame, he responded with lawsuits.
Back in 2009, both Jewel-Osco and Dominick’s ran full-page ads (or were they?) in a special issue of Sports Illustrated; the chains congratulated Jordan for making the Hall of Fame. In August, a Chicago jury awarded Jordan $8.9 million because Dominick’s used his image without permission in the ad that both congratulated the basketball star for being a “cut above,” and featured a steak coupon below.
Now, a December trial date is set for Jewel-Osco’s page in the magazine that called Jordan a “shoe in” and displayed his #23 shoes, along with a big, Jewel-Osco logo. The trial date comes after a federal appeals court decided the chain was not protected by the First Amendment because the speech was commercial. Minneapolis attorneys with the firm, Merchant & Gould, are defending the grocery chain.
“Jewel was basically just trying to garner goodwill by trying to associate itself with Michael Jordan,” Brent Lorentz, an intellectual property attorney at Winthrop & Weinstine, told Fox 9. “That’s not the same thing as saying, ‘I, Michael Jordan, approve of Jewel-Osco, and I want you to buy their products.’”
Lorentz is one of a handful of attorneys writing for the legal blog, DuetsBlog, and has written about the lawsuits on the blog.
Jordan promised to give the money won in the Dominick’s suit to charity.
“When you decide to bring a lawsuit, particularly in the branding context, you have to ask the question, not just am I going to win, but how is the public going to view this lawsuit?” Lorentz said, “Michael Jordan’s brand is about intense competition. It’s not about like-ability.”