The Jordan brand jumpman logo is one of the most iconic pieces in sports marketing history. Now the photographer who shot the photo that became the inspiration for it is suing Nike, claiming they didn’t have the rights to use it.
Jacobus Rentmeester of New York City filed the lawsuit against Oregon-based Nike Inc. on Thursday in federal court in Portland, Oregon. He’s seeking unspecified monetary damages, profits generated from the image, and an injunction preventing further copyright infringement.
Rentmeester staged and shot the photo for Life magazine as part of a special section published for the 1984 Summer Olympics. As a freelancer, he retained rights to the copyright. Nike later paid him $150 for temporary use of two transparencies of the photo.
According to the complaint, Nike then produced a nearly identical photograph of Jordan and reproduced it on billboards, and when Rentmeester threatened litigation, the Oregon company paid him $15,000 for a limited license to use the image for two years.
The complaint says Nike continued to reproduce the photo after that period and used it to create the distinctive “Jumpman” logo, a silhouette of the leaping Jordan inspired by the photograph. The company went on to create the Jordan Brand division, which markets Michael Jordan products using the photo and the logo.
Jordan has been a huge brand of its own since the 90’s. I understand the process in most suits is to wait to file until there’s a clear financial reason, but WOW.