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Olympic pin enthusiasts warned as fake products surface online

This provided photo shows fake Mainichi Newspapers Co. pin badges that were put up for auction on a flea market app.
The Mainichi Newspapers Co. Olympic and Paralympic pin badge is pictured on July 19, 2021. (Mainichi/Noriko Tokuno)

TOKYO -- Concerns have arisen over the sale of fake lapel pins using the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic logos, with the Mainichi Shimbun confirming images of counterfeit versions of its badges being for sale on a flea market app.

    With this year's Olympic Games banning spectators at most event venues and offering fewer chances for people to exchange goods face-to-face, many items are apparently being traded online, attracting the attention of fans.

    The practice of pin trading, in which people from around the world who gather at the Olympic Games exchange commemorative lapel pins, is said to have begun as a sign of goodwill between athletes at the first modern Olympics in Athens in 1896. The tradition quickly gathered momentum between ordinary spectators in the 1980s, and has come to be dubbed an "unofficial event" of the games.

    According to one lapel pin fan who spoke to the Mainichi Shimbun, the online sale of fake Olympic badges on flea market apps and overseas auction sites has been rampant, and there is a tendency for "media pins" of newspapers and television stations to be traded for high prices.

    The man said that he confirmed that lapel pins of The Mainichi Newspapers Co. and broadcasters had been listed on a flea market app in May this year. After further information was obtained and it was judged that there was a high possibility the items were counterfeit, information was passed on to the site operator and the items were delisted, but one buyer had already successfully bid for an item believed to be a fake TV station pin. The man said an acquaintance of his had been approached by someone offering a trade of similar pins.

    The man commented, "This time foreign visitors have been barred from attending the games and at most of the venues there are no spectators, so lapel pin enthusiasts are disappointed. With a lack of places to exchange pins, I'm worried that people may be conned into buying or trading fake items online. It's unforgivable that fair trading culture and prices are being twisted in order for some people to gain profits."

    In 2019, a man in the central Japan prefecture of Nagano was arrested on suspicion of violating the Trademark Act by selling fake lapel pins. The Olympic and Paralympic organizing committee is collaborating with customs officials and police, and has warned that "unauthorized and illicit use of intellectual properties relating to the Olympic and Paralympic Games or misappropriation of such properties will be punished by law."

    (Japanese original by Shohei Oshima, Tokyo City News Department)

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    A public affairs representative at the President's Office of The Mainichi Newspapers Co. commented, "It is extremely regrettable that Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic pins that use Mainichi Shimbun logos without permission are being produced and sold. We urge people to take care not to mistakenly purchase them."

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