The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal from a photographer who said Nike Inc. stole key aspects of his iconic photo of basketball star Michael Jordan and used them to sell billions of dollars in shoes and other merchandise.

The justices, without explanation, said Monday they won’t hear arguments from photographer Jacobus Rentmeester, whose portrait of Jordan gracefully leaping to dunk a basketball first appeared in Life magazine in 1984.

Nike started using a similar photo of Jordan the following year, then converted it to a silhouette that become the logo for the company’s Air Jordan sneakers.

Rentmeester was seeking to reinstate his copyright suit against Nike. A federal appeals court threw out the suit, saying the two photos weren’t substantially similar.

In 1985 Nike agreed to pay Rentmeester $15,000 for the right to use the Chicago photo on billboards and posters for two years. The company has never paid Rentmeester for rights to the Jumpman logo, which became one of Nike’s most recognizable symbols after its creation in 1987.

Nike said Rentmeester was improperly trying to claim a legal monopoly over the idea behind his photo.

The photos are definitely similar. 

And that’s an understatement. 

Unfortunately we must follow the law of the land.  

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