Nike has prevailed in a lawsuit over the “Jumpman” logo for its Air Jordan brand.
The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a case brought by a photographer who sued Nike for violating copyright law.
In 1984, photographer Jacobus Rentmeester took a photo for Life Magazine of Jordan, then a student at the University of North Carolina, gliding toward an outdoor basket with his legs wide and the ball in his outstretched left hand. Jordan wore his US Olympic team uniform and Converse sneakers in the photo.
“Rentmeester created a never-before-used pose — inspired by ballet — to generate Jordan’s appearance of weightlessness and power,” his petition to the Supreme Court said. Time Magazine later ranked it among the most 100 influential images of all time.
When Jordan left college for the NBA that year, he signed an endorsement deal with Nike. Rentmeester claimed that Nike copied “virtually every original element” in a photo the company used for an early marketing campaign with Jordan.
In Nike’s photo, which is set against the Chicago skyline, Jordan soars toward the basket in red-and-black Chicago Bulls gear and Nike shoes. The silhouette of the image later became the logo for Nike’s Air Jordan line, which reached more than $2.8 billion in sales last year.
In 2015, more than 30 years after Rentmeester took his photo, he sued Nike for copyright infringement. But a district court threw out the case and an appeals court upheld the decision. The appeals court found that Nike’s photo was not “substantially similar” to Rentmeester’s.