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Michael Jordan’s suit vs. Jewel-Osco rebounds back to federal court

The ad from Jewel Food Stores center Michael Jordan lawsuit.

The ad from Jewel Food Stores at the center of the Michael Jordan lawsuit.

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Updated: March 22, 2014 6:33AM



NBA legend Michael Jordan will see another day in his legal feud with Jewel-Osco over a congratulatory ad the company ran in 2009 for his induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

The ad in Sports Illustrated featured a pair of gym shoes with the number 23 on them, the Jewel-Osco logo and the words “Jewel-Osco salutes #23 on his many accomplishments as we honor a fellow Chicagoan who was ‘just around the corner’ for so many years.”

“Just around the corner” is the Jewel-Osco slogan.

Jordan, in a lawsuit seeking $5 million in damages, has argued the ad was a misappropriation of his identity for the supermarket chain’s commercial benefit.

Jewel-Osco argued the ad was protected by the First Amendment. And although a federal judge found the Jewel ad to be “noncommercial speech” in 2012 — because it didn’t feature a product — a 7th Circuit appeals judge on Wednesday reversed the ruling, allowing the case to proceed in federal district court.

The Appeals Court ruled that classifying this kind of advertising as “constitutionally immune noncommercial speech would permit advertisers to misappropriate the identity of athletes and other celebrities with impunity.”

“Jewel’s ad . . . prominently features the ‘Jewel-Osco’ logo and marketing slogan, which are creatively and conspicuously linked to Jordan in the text of the ad’s congratulatory message. Based on its content and context, the ad is properly classified as a form of image advertising aimed at promoting the Jewel-Osco brand,” the ruling said.

“We’re very pleased that the Court of Appeals ruled that Jewel’s ad that misrepresented Michael Jordan’s identity is commercial speech,” Jordan’s attorney Frederick Sperling said in a statement.

“We are disappointed with the court of appeals decision and still feel the district court was correct in finding no liability. We are considering all of our options,” Jewel-Osco said in a statement.

Jordan also sued Dominicks for $5 million in damages after the company ran a congratulatory ad with a steakhouse ad attached that read “A cut above.” That case will head to trial later this year.

Email: tsfondeles@suntimes.com

Twitter: @TinaSfon



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