Nike came out victorious in a lawsuit brought on by a photographer who claims a photo he took inspired the iconic Jumpman logo that adorns Air Jordan sneakers.
The Supreme Court decided to pass on a copyright dispute between photographer Jacobus Rentmeester and Nike in regards to the sportswear company’s use of the Jumpman logo. Rentmeester alleged that a photo he took for Life magazine back in 1984 was the inspiration for the logo and sought a portion of the brand’s sales in his suit. The ninth circuit appeals court in Oregon issued an opinion back in February 2018 that stated: “was not substantially similar to Rentmeester’s photo.”
The Supreme Court’s decision to pass on the matter upholds the lower court’s decision siding with Nike who paid Rentmeester $150 for the temporary rights of the photo he shot for the publication. The photo in question is a picture of Jordan while he was still attending University Of North Carolina. In it he can be seen doing the iconic pose while holding a basketball in his left hand. He was at that time preparing for the U.S. Olympics which were held in Los Angeles and was wearing Team USA’s Olympic uniform.
While Rentmeester thought his case was a slam dunk, the court ruled the pictures differed because in Nike’s photo Jordan is wearing red and black of the Chicago Bulls uniform with the Chicago skyline in the background while wearing Nike sneakers. In his picture, while the pose was the same, involved a basketball hoop on the same side and taken at the same angle he was wearing Converse sneakers.
Rentmeester called those differences “minor,” but the Court did not agree and ultimately sided with Nike in the case. The Supreme Court’s decision to pass on the matter might be the end of his suit and probably felt like one of Jordan’s dagger fadeaway jumpers he loved to send his opponents back to the locker room with.