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(screenshot via Plug&See/Twitter)

Tokyo has been working hard to strengthen and promote its brand as it gears up to host the 2020 Olympic Games, but the Japanese capital is having a rough time of it, hiring designers who are short on inspiration. In August Kenjiro Sano, the designer behind the logo for the Games, was accused of plagiarizing a logo by Belgian designer Olivier Debie; now, a French eyewear startup has noted similarities between its company logo and a new one representing the city of Tokyo that Japanese government officials unveiled just last week.

The new municipal logo, designed by the country’s oldest advertising agency Hakuhodo, consists of a white ampersand encased in a red circle as part of the also-new tagline “&TOKYO,” which officials are encouraging locals and tourists to engage with by adding their own words “to expand the meaning” (“RELAX &TOKYO,” for example). The Lyon-based Plug & See, which launched this year, has a logo that features the same symbols and colors, although its circle surrounds two overlapping ampersands. While the designs by Sano and Debie are rather similar — and Debie is suing — this recent case presents a tougher claim to make since the logos utilize common shapes and are incredibly simple. Although Spoon & Tamago noted that Plug & See originally “refuted the claim” on Twitter, any such tweet has apparently since been deleted. Rather than picking a fight, however, Plug & See has instead announced that it will cede the logo duel to Tokyo and change its branding. It has started a fundraising campaign to commission a new brand design.

The front page of the French start-up’s website now reads, “In the name of Franco-Japanese friendship, we are quite willing to let Toyko have this logo. Help us fund the adventure and a new graphic identity.” The message appears in not just English and French, but also in Japanese for good measure. Only time will tell if the company is actually receiving public donations for a redesign, but for now, it is at least embracing the opportunity to promote itself across all social media platforms — admittedly, a pretty witty way to handle a case of possible plagiarism.

While the 2020 Olympic Games organizers decided to drop Sano’s design despite rejecting the plagiarism claims, government officials seem content with “&TOKYO” and have not addressed Plug & See’s claims. We may never know if the new city logo was inspired by the eyewear company’s, but at least it wasn’t plagiarized off party supplies.

h/t Spoon & Tamago

Claire Voon is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Singapore, she grew up near Washington, D.C. and is now based in Chicago. Her work has also appeared in New York Magazine, VICE,...

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