Soccer superstar Diego Maradona won a 3 million yuan (US$490,000) lawsuit in Beijing yesterday against two Shanghai firms which used his name and image without permission.
The Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People's Court ruled that Shanghai The9 Information Technology Co Ltd and The9 Computer Technology Consulting (Shanghai) Co Ltd pay 3 million yuan for the infringement and 1 yuan for mental distress.
Maradona wasn't in court, the People's Daily website reported.
The 52-year-old former Argentina manager and player filed the lawsuit last year after he discovered that his name and image were being used at an online gaming website.
In a hearing last August, Maradona said he had never endorsed the online game - "Hot Blooded Soccer" - at qiuqiu.9c.com as the Shanghai firms had claimed.
Beijing Sina Internet Information Service Co Ltd - operator of www.sina.com - was also sued for releasing reports saying the player had endorsed the game.
But the court said Sina was not liable for any infringement because it used images according to its contract with the Shanghai firms.
Maradona said that he had never allowed the Shanghai firms to use either his name or image to promote the game and demanded compensation and fees totaling 20 million yuan.
Earlier reports said the Shanghai firms had claimed they were cheated by a "football manager" and had reported the alleged fraudster, surnamed Lu, to police.
The court said that the use of Maradona's name and portrait would bring considerable commercial benefits, considering his reputation in world football circles.
The Shanghai firms were not cautious enough when signing an endorsement agreement that turned out to be fraudulent, the court said.
It also ordered the two firms to apologize on www.the9.com and www.sina.com.
Ge Youshan, a lawyer representing Maradona, said his client wouldn't be contesting the decision since the amount of compensation didn't matter much.
Li Zhengning, a lawyer for the Shanghai firms, said his clients hadn't yet decided whether to appeal the ruling.
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