BRUSSELS – Kenjiro Sano, the embattled designer of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic emblem, admitted Saturday that some of the designs that his office contracted and used for items to be handed out as part of a Suntory Beer Ltd. promotional campaign were copies of other designs.
Sano, whose own submission for the Olympic emblem is facing an allegation of plagiarism by a Belgian artist, acknowledged that the designs for the Suntory freebie goods were “traced from third-party designers.”
He apologized for the copying, which he said was done by subordinates, noting that he, who is responsible for overseeing his employees, had no idea that the designs he approved were imitations of other people’s work.
Suntory has already announced it will pull eight of the 30 types of tote bags that are given to customers of its nonalcoholic products.
However, Sano stood firm on the Olympic logo issue, maintaining that the design was his own and refuting a claim by Belgian theater logo designer Olivier Debie that the creation was plagiarized.
Debie, the logo designer for Theatre de Liege, formally filed a lawsuit in Belgium Thursday seeking to get the International Olympic Committee to halt its use, his lawyer said Friday.
It came after Debie and the theater sent letters to the IOC and Japanese Olympic Committee on July 31, giving them eight days to stop using Sano’s design otherwise legal action would be taken.
The Japanese committee has not retracted the Olympic logo and said it would persevere with plans to use it for the 2020 event.
The theater logo is not registered as a trademark, but Debie claims the Olympic logo resembles one he designed for the theater, asserting copyright infringement.
At a news conference on Aug. 5, Sano said that he had never seen the theater logo.