Back in March, Nike fired back against a photographer’s claims that the brand had stolen one of his pictures for its world-famous Jumpman logo. Now, the case has taken another twist this week in federal court.
Oregon Live covered this week’s proceedings, saying that plaintiff Jacobus Rentmeester’s attorney argued that his client was responsible for creating the emblematic pose. However, it sounds like the judge isn’t exactly buying the story, as he used an example of positioning LeBron James in the same way: “If you had a different person in the identical pose, then the pose itself is not anything for which you can seek copyright protection; is that right?” the judge said.
The debate then ventured into Jordan’s “shooting hand,” with Rentmeester’s lawyer contending that MJ’s left-handed dunk in the photograph wasn’t a natural tendency, but instead was influenced by Rentmeester. “This is Michael Jordan doing a pose that he had never done before that was the invention of Mr. Rentmeester and that is not a natural result of any kind of movement that would be typical in a basketball game or typically Michael Jordan… Jordan is holding the basketball in his left hand. That is his non-shooting hand,” the attorney argued.
But the judge still didn’t buy it: “Apparently nobody in your law firm ever tried to guard Michael Jordan from dunking a basketball. I don’t know why that’s his nondunking hand,” he said.
Meanwhile, Nike’s attorney downplayed Rentmeester’s contributions and essentially echoed what we all already know: that the Jumpman logo is an icon because of Michael Jordan, and Michael Jordan alone. “The photographer doesn’t make up what’s before them. Michael Jordan is Michael Jordan. A rock is a rock,” she said.
From the sounds of things, this case could be closed before we know it.