Japanese Olympic Logo Designer Accused Of Plagiarism By Belgian Designer

n-olymplogo-a-20150731-870x590There is a controversy in Japan that may rekindle questions about the increasing claims of trademarks and copyrighted material. Belgian designer Olivier Debie has accused Japanese designer Kenjiro Sano of stealing the basic design of his emblem for a Belgian theater as the official logo for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. There is no question that the letter has similar geometric elements, but it is also true that Sano’s design is indicative of the minimalist tradition of Japanese art. To claim all future minimalist representations of an “T” raises the same concerns as common words or images being declared private property. By the way, I like the Sano design and I think it captures the character of the host nation and its artistic traditions.

Sano denies that he plagiarized and insists that he never saw the emblem for the Theatre de Liege before creating his logo. He notes that he used a widely available font for the letter “T” for Tokyo, team and tomorrow. He inserted the red circle as a reference to the logo was inspired by designer Yusaku Kamekura’s emblem for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

The Olympic committee vetted the logo for any trademark issues and noted that the Theatre de Liege never registered its symbol as a trademark. However, Debie insisted that he still has legal recourse under copyright laws.

We have often discussed the abusive expansion of copyright and trademark laws. This includes common phrases, symbols, and images being claimed as private property. (here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). This included a New York artist claiming that he holds the trademark to symbol π.

The claim of protection over common, minimalist font letters strikes me as another example of the privatization of common symbols and terms that will further chill and limit creativity — the very opposite of what these laws were designed to achieve.

What do you think?

11 thoughts on “Japanese Olympic Logo Designer Accused Of Plagiarism By Belgian Designer”

  1. I’m ashamed that news as Japanese.
    It is completely doubt.
    Lots of japanese internet users uncovered Sano’s past plagiarism works as below.

    Shame on Sano!!
    Nobody can stand up that fact of plagiarism.
    Most of japanese people want him to admit that silly behavior.
    He have to apologize to not only Japanese but also world people, especially Belgian designer.

    We Japanese are so sorry to cause all of you trouble.

  2. I think Trump should have gotten approved for copyrighting the phrase “You’re Fired!”

  3. Sorry, but I think the logo is boring. Its style is corporate 1980s. He should be glad to have an excuse to go back to the drawing board! Red dot should symbolize “land of the rising sun”, as on Japan’s flag, no? Does Japan have copywrite on “red dot”? Maybe he could take some inspiration from anime artists.

  4. “…holds the trademark to symbol π.”
    Shouldn’t that correctly read “…holds the trademark to symbol π..” with an extra period?

    1. Chief Consort – I long ago copyrighted the note C. I have retired on the royalties.

  5. The logo is too different for any problem with copyright laws. I think Olivier Debie is just looking for a settlement to go away.

  6. This one is close enough to take to court. A search on Google would have turned up the theatre sign.

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