Logo of Michael Jor­dan didn’t vi­o­late copy­right


SAN FRAN­CISCO — An iconic Nike logo of a leap­ing Michael Jor­dan that the com­pany has used to mar­ket bil­lions of dol­lars of mer­chan­dise didn’t vi­o­late the copy­right of an ear­lier pho­to­graph of the bas­ket­ball star, a fed­eral ap­peals court ruled Tues­day.

The logo was based on a pho­to­graph taken by some­one Nike hired. That photo was “ob­vi­ously in­spired” by a 1984 photo by Ja­cobus Rent­meester, the 9th U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals said. But the court in a 2-1 de­ci­sion said the pho­tos are un­mis­tak­ably dif­fer­ent in key el­e­ments.

Both show Jor­dan leap­ing with his legs ex­tended out­ward to­ward a bas­ket­ball hoop with a ball above his head.

Nike used its photo for the “Jump­man” logo — a sil­hou­et­ted im­age of Jor­dan in the leap­ing pose in its pho­to­graph.

Rent­meester pho­tographed Jor­dan while he played at the Univer­sity of North Car­olina. His pho­to­graph ap­peared in Life Magazine in a photo es­say fea­tur­ing U.S. ath­letes com­pet­ing in the 1984 Sum­mer Olympics.

An email to a law firm rep­re­sent­ing Rent­meester wasn’t im­me­di­ately re­turned.

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,” Wat­ford wrote.

The rul­ing af­firmed a lower court de­ci­sion dis­miss­ing Rent­meester’s 2015 law­suit against Nike.

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