Jeremy Lin, 23-year-old New York Knicks point guard, is having issues trademarking his own name after a company in China beat him to the punch for only $710 almost two years ago.
Wuxi Risheng Sports Utility Co., a company that manufactures an estimated one million basketballs, volleyballs and soccer balls each year, trademarked Lin's name in July 2010. Lin, a Taiwanese-American rising NBA star, may have issues being granted the trademark to his own name.
According to a CNN report, Risheng registered both Lin's Chinese and English names as trademarks in China until 2021. The move could prevent Lin from gaining money from deals made with major companies interested in using his name to promote their products.
The likelihood of Lin receiving the rights to trademark his name without a major payout is slim since China usually rewards the person who is first to apply for the trademark. Horace Lam, an intellectual property partner of Jones Day global law firm who is based in Beijing, spoke about the key differences between acquiring a trademark in China and the United States.
"In China, first-to-register gets the rights. You may have an idea, and you can register its trademark without ever using it," Lam said in a Reuters report. "Unlike in the U.S., where one must first show actual use or an intention to use before one can apply for a trademark."
Yu Minjie, a legal representative for the Risheng company, spoke to Reuters about the decision to trademark the NBA star's name in 2010. Although Minjie said the company may be willing to sell the rights to the trademark, various companies have inquired about it but none have interested the company yet.
"I'm a Harvard fan ... I like him very much. He gave me a lot of surprises and inspiration," Yu told Reuters. "Several big companies looked me up to cooperate or buy (the trademark). I'm willing to sell, but there is no ideal offer now."
Risheng will begin selling basketballs in March under the trademarked Chinese name "Lin Shuhao Jeremy S.H.L." Although Lin is reportedly working with Nike to produce various products inspired by his name, Lam said the NBA star may have to spend millions to gain access to the trademark.
"This trademark will be difficult to take from Risheng because Risheng applied for these trademarks ... for use in the same products that Nike sells: a wide array of athletic apparel and sports equipment," Lam said. "Nike and Jeremy Lin could buy the trademark from Risheng, which could potentially cost millions of RMB."
Lin, who signed on with the Knicks for a $800,000 salary this season, is worth $15 million according to Forbes SportsMoney.
Still, Lin was able to apply for the trademark of "Linsanity" the term coined by Lin fans to describe his rise to fame and a record-breaking performances for the Knicks. Nike Inc. has begun selling shoes inspired by Lin and a "Linsanity" line of clothing at Foot Locker Inc. stores.