Nike Loses To Internet Cartoonist

A Chinese animator has won a court battle against the U.S. footwear and apparel maker Nike Inc. over the company's use of a stick figure illustration, state media reported Thursday.

Internet cartoonist Zhu Zhiqiang had asked for 2 million yuan (US$240,000; euro180,000) in compensation from Nike as well as a public apology for allegedly copying his "Little Match Man" illustration in one of its worldwide ad campaigns.

A Beijing court ruled Wednesday in Zhu's favor, ordering Nike to pay 300,000 yuan (US$36,000; euro27,000) in compensation and issue a public apology to Zhu, the China Daily newspaper said.

"I got what I wanted - confirmation on my copyright over my stickman," Zhu was quoted as saying.

Zhang Zaiping, a lawyer for the Beaverton, Oregon-based Nike, had argued that the image used by Nike is a common symbol not entitled to protection under copyright law.

"From mural and stone paintings in ancient times to Sherlock Holmes stories, the logo has been used repeatedly," Zhang was quoted as saying in an earlier China Daily report.

Nike says the stick figure logo, used in its "Creativity in Sports" campaign, was designed by an American advertising company in 2002 at a cost of 25 million yuan (US$3 million).

According to the China Daily, Nike plans to appeal the ruling.

The case is an unusual reversal of roles for China, which has frequently been criticized by the United States for being lax about protecting patents and other intellectual property.

The country's thriving industry in product piracy routinely violates copyrights, trademarks and patents on movies, designer clothes and other goods, despite promises by Beijing to crack down.