Olympics logo designer admits Suntory giveaway bag designs copied


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.

  • DrHanibalLecter

    “Belgian designer files lawsuit to halt use of Tokyo Olympic logo”

    You might re-write that a bit more honest, by changing this into:

    “Belgian designer files lawsuit to get paid a lot of money.”


    • Firas Kraïem

      Wrong. This is not the US.

      • monirom

        Yep. That’s us the world’s whipping boy.

  • Todd Strickland

    This is typical of a Japanese bureaucracy. They don’t think of what they SHOULD do, they only think of what the letter of the law says they CAN do. “The theater design wasn’t trademarked, therefor it’s ok to steal it.” Never mind that it makes Japan look like a land of cheats to the rest of the world and tarnishes it’s reputation. “WE HAVE A RIGHT TO USE IT!”

    Actually, though, not copyrighting a logo DOES NOT mean others have the right to steal it. Many cases like this occur in the world, and all you need to do is a) show that your logo (or invention, or whatever) was copied and b) that your idea came FIRST.

    If this goes to trial, Japan will lose. Regardless, the JOC is already in a heap of trouble and this is just one more thing that makes them look bad.

    Dump the logo and move on! There’s still 5 years. Get a new logo now and no one will remember this fiasco by 2020.

  • GBR48

    There’s no reason to assume that he lifted the design. I mean, come on: How many Belgian theatres have you been to? This sort of spat happens all the time, particularly in fount design. There are only so many ways that you can accessorise a letter of the alphabet.

    • Todd Strickland

      I guess you don’t know the world of design. There are numerous publications and collections that chronicle logo designs published every year, and just about all professional designers look at them ALL. It is highly likely that the theater design would end up in one of those and that Sano would have seen it.

  • ricohflex

    The IOC and the Tokyo Games organisers should change the logo primarily because it is LOUSY. Belgian designer Olivier Debie’s claims of plagiarism is not the main reason why the logo should be changed.
    The reason given by IOC and the Tokyo Games organisers was very poor. They said Olivier Debie did not copyright his design and implied that because of this, it was acceptable for a Japanese designer to plagiarise Debie’s design.

  • J.P. Bunny

    Sano may not have copied the design for the Olympic logo, but this bag copying issue is not helping him at all. I suppose he can’t admit that the logo is terrible (my first impression is a Roman numeral III), but he could pull the design for the “sake of Olympic harmony” or some such reason.

  • sdfqef

    A lot of people forget how Japan reached its pinnacle of innovation in the first place. They copied others. This was back in the 60s and 70s.