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updated: 8/11/2015 2:51 PM

$2-off steak coupon featuring Michael Jordan could cost store far more

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  • Michael Jordan is scheduled to appear Tuesday in federal court in Chicago for the start of a civil trial and will later testify on the unauthorized use of his identity. A court already ruled a grocery-story chain used his identity without permission in a magazine ad and so the unresolved legal issue is damages.

    Michael Jordan is scheduled to appear Tuesday in federal court in Chicago for the start of a civil trial and will later testify on the unauthorized use of his identity. A court already ruled a grocery-story chain used his identity without permission in a magazine ad and so the unresolved legal issue is damages.
    Associated Press

 
By MICHAEL TARM

Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) -- Former Chicago Bull Michael Jordan was in a federal courtroom Tuesday for the start of a civil trial that will scrutinize the basketball star's market value and look at whether a grocery-store chain diluted that value by running a steak-coupon advertisement that invoked Jordan's name without permission.

The trial in the city where Jordan won six NBA championships stems from a lawsuit he filed against the now-defunct Dominick's Finer Foods for the 2009 ad in Sports Illustrated that congratulated him on his induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Text above a $2 coupon and photograph of a steak read, "Michael Jordan ... You are a cut above."

Jordan, 52, entered through the front doors of the courthouse Tuesday morning after Judge John Blakey denied his request to use a security tunnel. A relaxed-looking Jordan walked through a metal detector as dozens of reporters and passers-by looked on, pulling an ID from his wallet and showing it to security.

The trial, which is expected to last about a week, began Tuesday with jury selection. A lawyer defending Dominick's asked an initial batch of would-be jurors to raise their hands if any of them considered Jordan "an idol or personal hero" and so couldn't fairly assess the evidence. Not one hand was raised.

Jordan has meticulously guarded his image and the suit was an attempt to thwart companies that employ praise to slip references to him in an ad. Jordan is expected to testify later this week about why he so carefully controls his brand.

Questions are also expected arise about Jordan's lucrative endorsement deals with multiple companies, including Nike, as the sides seek to establish the value of his image.

A separate judge previously ruled that Dominick's did, in fact, use Jordan's identity without permission and was liable, so the unresolved issue for jurors is damages. They could decide to award him up to millions of dollars or, if they decide no notable damage was done to his image, nothing at all.

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