Lin's trademark bounce set to net top score
Updated: 2012-02-23 08:06
By Zheng Xin (China Daily)
New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin looks on against the New Jersey Nets in the first half of their NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden in New York on Monday. [Eduardo Munoz / Reuters]
Entrepreneur's foresight of player's fame and fortune offers great sporting chance
BEIJING - Speculative entrepreneurs in China are set to score slam-dunk style on the back of basketball player Jeremy Lin's meteoric rise to stardom.
The name of National Basketball Association's Chinese-American overnight sensation, who is now said by Forbes magazine to be worth around 100 million yuan ($15.9 million), has already been registered as a trademark by a Chinese businesswoman in 2010.
Yu Minjie, owner of a sporting goods company based in Wuxi in East China's Jiangsu province, spent less than 5,000 yuan when she registered "Jeremy S.H.L." as a trademark after watching Lin's performance in a televised NBA game. S.H.L stands for Lin Shuhao, Lin's Chinese name.
"She was impressed by Lin's talent and sensed that he would rise to fame someday," her sister, Yu Minhua, said on Wednesday.
Yu Minjie had also bought the trademark for another famous NBA player, Yi Jianlian, in 2009.
Her company is entitled to use the trademark for Lin, the New York Knicks point guard, for sportswear, accessories, balls and toys until August 2021.
Yu Minjie says she never expected Lin would be this famous and did not expect to make much of a fortune from the trademark.
But despite earlier offers to buy it, she decided to retain the right to use it.
The company is producing basketballs under the trademark "Jeremy S.H.L.", due to go on sale next month.
However, although Lin has also filed an application to trademark "Linsanity" in the United States, experts say he would need to get the authorization from the Wuxi company if he decides to claim its trademark.
"Registering a trademark based on a potential celebrity is like gambling, but it's a legitimate commercial activity and does not violate trademark law or intellectual property rights," said Liu Chuntian, director of the Intellectual Property Institute of Renmin University of China.
"Yu Minjie is neither profiting at other people's expense nor gaining extra advantage by unfair means."
According to Liu, Yu Minjie was sharp and lucky in her investment, and is entitled to the big rewards for her clairvoyance. There were no grounds for claiming that she's only capitalizing on Lin's sudden stardom.
Liu said that before a trademark is approved, the trademark office undertakes a three-month examination and the application is open to the people from across the world. It will be withdrawn if any violation or infringement is found, which is very fair.
"If other people fail to see the trademark application, that is not the applicant's fault," he said.
Liu said China treats trademark and intellectual property issues in accordance with the international standards and principles.
"Lin was barely known by the public when the Chinese trademark was registered and he could have been dropped from the team any time since then. There was no violation of trademark law or intellectual property then with so many other Jeremy Lins worldwide," he said.
However, Yu Guofu, a partner with Beijing Shengfeng Law Firm, which specializes in intellectual property, said it was hard to judge if the trademark "Jeremy S.H.L." was against Lin's rights as it was hard to judge if he was famous or not at the time it was registered.
"There's no unified standard for being well-known," said Liu.
In reaction to the sudden appreciation in the trademark's value, many people may see this as a shortcut to wealth and prosperity.
"It would be a great job to speculate and register the names of NBA rookies and promising talents as trademarks," said Wang Yu, a 26-year-old Beijing resident. "I can easily make a fortune if one of the guesses is a hit."
However, lawyer Yu said it would be expensive and very risky to speculate like this.
"The applicant has to pay a 1000-yuan registration fee even if the trademark fails the examination process," said Yu. "If thousands of speculators scramble to register a potential super talent for a trademark, it would lead to nothing but a loss of money."
"Even if the applicant is entitled the use of the trademark, he is still risks having to return it."
Besides the trademark, the Chinese domain name bearing the name of the NBA hero, "linshuhao.com", has also been registered in China and is currently for sale.
Jeremy Lin, a Harvard graduate from the department of economics, soared to stardom after seven straight wins in two weeks from Feb 5.