Japanese clothing company Uniqlo held a contest where entrants could design a shirt with a Pokemon-themed design. The winner would win $14,543 as well as have their design appear in the upcoming Pokemon Sword and Shield. However, there has been a controversy, with Chinese artist Li Wen Pei, who won the contest, being disqualified for breaking the contest guidelines.
Li Wen Pei’s has stated that the theme of the design is “Ocean King”. It features a stylised Gyarados atop three Magikarp. In his description of the design to Uniqlo, he said that “Magikarp is the faith in a fan’s mind. Also, the evolution from weakness to mightiness is like a miracle”.
“Uniqlo, the Japanese global apparel retailer, today announces that is has disqualified the Grand Prize winner and another finalist in its Pokémon-themed UT Grand Prix 2019 design contest after learning that the designs in question were not in accordance with the terms of that competition,” the company said in a statement. “Uniqlo will not award the Grand Prize to another entrant or sell merchandise feature the designs.”
The main reason for the disqualification is that Li Wen Pei’s design has previously been used for commercial purposes outside of the contest. According to a translated post on social media, Wen Pei had previously used the design on smartphone cases, which he sold. The design has since shown up on T-shirts, however Wen Pei has protested that those were cases of other pirating his work.
According to the rules of the contest, “Uniqlo may withdraw prizes and/or terminate merchandising of t-shirts with Winning Artworks without prior notice to an entrant, irrespective of the originality of the Artwork submitted by the entrant, if similar artwork is already publicly available from outside Uniqlo stores”. However, Uniqlo has not made a statement confirming if this is why Wen Pei was disqualified.
It is understandable that these rules are in place for legal reasons. However, it’s still unfortunate the design won’t make it into the finished game.