US sports apparel giant Nike have lost a copyright suit over the illegal advertising use of a Chinese cartoon character only weeks after the famous shoe maker had their ads pulled from Chinese television for upsetting local traditions. The Beijing Intermediate Court ordered Nike to pay 300,000 yuan ($36,000) to cartoonist Zhu Zhiqiang for using his ‘Little Match Man’ in their ‘Stickman’ advertising campaign.

‘The verdict confirmed that the copyright had been violated and called for an open apology and the compensation of 300,000 yuan’, an official said. She also said that Nike and the plaintiff had yet to express an opinion on the court verdict and it was unclear if either side would appeal.

Zhu brought the case to court in July and had sued the shoemaker for 2 million yuan. Zhang Zaiping, the lawyer representing Nike, earlier dismissed the allegations: ‘The small man figure created by the plaintiff and his gestures are absolutely different from Nike’s Stickman’, Zhang said when the case opened.

The Stickman was independently designed by the advertisement company Wieden and Kennedy in 2002 and Nike had spent about 25 million yuan on the design, he said.

Nike also maintained that the Stickman cannot come under copyright protection because it lacks originality. The court case was not the only trouble Nike has suffered in China recently. Earlier this month the State Administration for Radio, Film and Television imposed a nationwide ban on a ‘blasphemous’ Nike television commercial featuring US basketball star LeBron James battling and defeating a mystical Kung Fu master. The 90-second advert, entitled ‘Chamber of Fear’, ‘triggered great anger among Chinese TV viewers’, the ministry-level SARFT said. The advert showed Cleveland Cavaliers star James defeating the Kung Fu master, two women in traditional Chinese attire and a pair of dragons, considered a sacred symbol in Chinese culture.

SARFT said it ‘violated China’s temporary advertising regulations which require all advertisements to uphold national dignity and respect Chinese culture.’ Nike later apologized.