CHICAGO (CN) – A federal judge handed a setback to Michael Jordan, who claimed the Jewel and Supervalu supermarket chain violated his trademark in an issue of Sports Illustrated.
Jordan sued Jewel Food Stores and Supervalu in January 2010. He claimed a Jewel ad that appeared in Sports Illustrated commemorative edition when he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame infringed on his trademark and business interests.
But U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman ruled that the ad was noncommercial speech and protected by the First Amendment.
“It is difficult to see how Jewel’s page could be viewed, even with the benefit of multiple layers of green eyeshades, as proposing a commercial transaction,” Feinerman wrote. “The text recounts some of Jordan’s accomplishments and congratulates him on his career and induction into the Hall of Fame. The shoes, the number 23, and the hardwood floor evoke Jordan and the sport and team for which he enjoyed his principal success. (Baseball cleats from Jordan’s detour with the Birmingham Barons, or basketball shoes redolent of his coda with the Washington Wizards, would have been out of place and in some tension with the page’s congratulatory spirit.) At the most basic level, the page does not propose any kind of commercial transaction, as readers would be at a loss to explain what they have been invited to buy.”
Jordan’s attorney, Fred Sperling, told the Chicago Tribune that he will appeal.
Jordan has a similar lawsuit pending against Dominick’s Finer Foods, also involving an ad in Sports Illustrated.