By Eric Cheung, CNN Business
The Chinese city of Dalian has selected a new design for a logo aimed at promoting tourism. One problem: It looks an awful lot like Disney’s.
The Dalian Culture and Tourism Bureau last week unveiled the winner of a competition to design its new logo, complimenting the “use of a few strokes” to “vividly” showcase the city’s characteristics.
But Chinese internet users were quick to point out that the design strongly resembles the corporate logo used by Disney, which operates theme parks in China and counts the country among its most important markets.
The design drew accusations of plagiarism on social media, and the hashtag “Dalian city logo” was trending on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform. The design of the letter “D” and the swoop above the “i” drew particular attention.
“Isn’t it ridiculous that the tourism management bureau has never seen the Disney logo?” One user asked on Weibo. “Do we need an investigation? This is apparently a copyright issue,” another said.
Disney is not the first global company to have its brand or logo copied in China, where trademarks are generally awarded to whomever first files a claim with the government.
In one court case in 2016, basketball great Michael Jordan fought against a Chinese sportswear company whose main logo bore a striking resemblance to the iconic Air Jordan image used on Nike (NKE) products.
The issue went all the way to China’s top court, which ruled that the company must stop using Jordan’s name in Chinese characters.
Jason Y. Ng, a lawyer with the Hong Kong-based Progressive Lawyers Group, said the Dalian case should serve as a reminder to foreign companies about copycat behaviors in China.
“It underscores one of the perils of doing business in China, which operates on a whole different set of rules and scruples,” he said.
In response to the online criticism, organizers in Dalian said they were investigating the incident, while emphasizing that the logo had not been adopted for official use.
“We are highly concerned after some netizens pointed out the work may have been a copycat,” the organizing committee said in a statement on Tuesday.
“According to the adjudication rules, all participants should own the copyright to their submissions,” it said, adding that the winner may be stripped of the title after the investigation.
China is a big market for Disney, which opened a $5.5 billion theme park in Shanghai in 2016. The company did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
— Laura He contributed to this report.
Article originally appeared in CNN on 19 December 2019.