Nagoya zoo wants probe into logo made by embattled Olympic designer

Kyodo, Staff Report

A zoo in Nagoya has asked for a probe into the logo that 2020 Tokyo Olympics emblem designer Kenjiro Sano created for it, sources said Tuesday.

The Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens requested the probe after fresh accusations were raised that the zoo’s logo resembles that of Costa Rica’s national museum, according to the sources.

The zoo adopted the logo, which depicts an animal face with three yellow circles and a plant face with six green buds, in 2013.

The zoo was notified earlier this month of the resemblance between the plant face and the Costa Rican national museum’s emblem.

Late Tuesday, a spokesperson for Sano denied that he copied the design from the Costa Rican museum.

Sano has admitted that his team stole design ideas for some of the items used in a beverage promotion campaign by Suntory Beer Ltd.

Tama Art University in Tokyo, where Sano serves as a professor, said it will question him over designs of tote bags that were given to people who bought Suntory products.

In a separate move Monday, the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee disputed the claims and actions of a Belgian designer who has sued the International Olympic Committee over copyright infringement of the Tokyo 2020 logo created by Sano.

The committee took several shots at Olivier Debie, who has demanded the body cease using its logo, which resembles one he designed for the Theatre de Liege in Belgium. Debie has filed a suit against the International Olympic Committee (IOC), claiming plagiarism.

“We supplied (the designer’s side) with a detailed written explanation, but the plaintiff chose to file a suit instead of listening,” said one comment in a Japanese-language statement released by 2020 organizers.

The theater logo is not registered as a trademark, but Debie claimed the Olympic logo resembles one he designed for the theater, asserting it is copyright infringement.

IOC Coordination Commission Chairman John Coates has declared that the IOC and the Tokyo committee checked all registered trademarks before unveiling the logo.

The Tokyo committee reiterated in the statement that the Olympic logo does not infringe on the designer’s right in any way.

“Disseminating their own assertions repeatedly and then filing suit is unacceptable behavior for a public body,” the statement said.

During a news conference earlier this month, Sano denied he committed any plagiarism regarding the Olympic logo.

“I put all of my knowledge and experience as an artistic director” into creating it, he said. “I was shocked and found it hard to accept, to be honest. But I’ve never been to Belgium, nor seen the logo even once.”

Besides Debie’s work, the Tokyo Olympics logo sparked attention on the Internet for its similarity to a design conceived by Spain’s Hey Studio to solicit donations for victims of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in the Tohoku region. Sano denied there were similarities between them, saying he never referred to the Spanish logo either.

  • Tokyo Joe

    These guys still don’t understand the difference between a trademark violation and a copyright infringement. And with the Suntory fiasco designer Sano has lost all credibility. The Olympic logo is tainted and the Tokyo Olympic committee indeed displays “unacceptable behaviour for a public body”.

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    • Fred Orangefield

      I totally agree. This is disgraceful — Sano’s design, which is widely unpopular in Japan and the world, should be scrapped without further delay.

  • Mark Garrett

    I believe Sano was “inspired” to become a graphic artist while visiting Nara Dreamland as a child.

  • Chris Bartlett

    Another ridiculous claim of plagiarism where the ‘design’ in question is just simple geometric shapes that anyone could and has come up with a million times. Not Guilty!

    • Al_Martinez

      Okay, I’m gonna take the “simple” geometric shapes of the Olympic logo, alter them slightly, then make T-shirts with the slogan “Happy games in 2020!”–or some such nonsense. I will then attempt to sell these on Yahoo! Japan Auctions and see just how far I get before police are raiding my home, hauling away my computers.

      • Chris Bartlett

        A situation like that is exactly why we have trademarks to give protection to logos that goes beyond normal copyright to prevent two similar but different logos being confused by consumers. Even then your trademark would need to be distinguishable from what’s already widely available unless it is already established.

  • Al_Martinez

    Yep, considering Sano’s connections to Dentsu, it’s not surprising at all that the media exposure here is limited.

  • sdfqef

    A lot of people forget how Japan reached its pinnacle of innovation in the first place. They copied everyone back in the 60s, 70s and 80s.