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Home IP FLASH Plagiarism allegations on Tokyo 2020 Olympics logo

The previous logo has been withdrawn for a new one.

Plagiarism allegations on Tokyo 2020 Olympics logo

Fariha Marjia
Plagiarism allegations on Tokyo 2020 Olympics logo

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics Games have revealed their new logo on April 25 after a series of copyright issues with the previous one. Last September a Belgian artist had made copyright claims for which the logo had to be completely remodeled. According to the Tokyo Olympics committee, the Japanese designer Kenjiro Sano modeled the original logo which had a black block sitting in the middle of a square shape with curved triangles in two corners, sporting a red circle in the middle like a Japanese flag. 

But the Belgian artist, Olivier Debie claimed the logo to be plagiarised from the logo he created originally for the company Théâtre de Liège in 2013. He accused the Japanese artist to have copied his artwork for the Olympics logo highlighting similarities between the two logos in a Facebook and Twitter post. 

The games' organisers announced that Sano's design was based on the T in Tokyo, tomorrow and team, while Debie's combines the letters T and L from Théâtre and Liège. The Belgian artist threatened the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo games organisers with legal action if the logo wasn't withdrawn, although his own logo was not a registered trademark. The marketing director Hidetoshi Maki for Tokyo 2020, stated "Their logo was not a registered trademark, so there is absolutely no problem."
When Sano was asked regarding this matter, he stated that Debie's claims were "groundless", and disproved all allegations of plagiarism saying "I take a lot of time with every design, nurturing them like children. I've never been to Belgium, nor seen the logo even once.”

Nevertheless, Debie has dropped all charges against event organizers due to the escalating legal costs. He stated in an interview with the Japanese publication Kyodo News "After consideration, I prefer to withdraw my complaint. Even if I were to win, the legal costs would be so high that I couldn't recoup my expenses."

The Olympics committee has interviewed Sano, and will cease use of both the Olympics and Paralympics logo immediately. The new design by Asao Tokolo, comprises of a circular chequered pattern finished with three varieties of rectangular shapes. Tokolo’s design was one of the four shortlisted designs. For the selection of this new design, Alex Kelham the managing associate at law firm Lewis Silkin, stated that the process had been very thorough including a “clear guidance” on intellectual property rights. According to her  “One of the downsides to selecting and clearing all four pairs of designs is that being in the public domain opens the logos up to the risk of unauthorized use.”

She also viewed “Tokyo 2020 may consider obtaining trademark registrations for all the shortlisted designs but this would prove even more costly and most risks would likely be mitigated by the existing protections—including rights to the ‘Tokyo 2020’ word mark, as well as copyright in the designs themselves.

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