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Brics logo caught in ‘copycat’ debate

New Delhi, March 10: Next time you want to make foreign ministry mandarins blush, just wave a tuft of feathers. Preferably those of the national bird.

The logo for the fourth, five-nation Brics summit that Delhi hosts this month-end has left South Block a tad embarrassed because of certain similarities with the logo of television network NBC, though a closer look shows the differences too.

While the Brics logo, designed by a third-year student of IIT Roorkee, suggests the plumes of a dancing peacock, the NBC emblem too depicts a peacock’s plumage.

But whereas the Brics emblem has five feathers, each of a different colour representing the five countries Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa that would meet over March 28 and 29, the NBC symbol has six feathers. The colours of the feathers in the two logos are also different.

At first glance, however, the two appear similar, which is why the feathers are flying in South Block, the seat of the external affairs ministry (MEA).

Sources confirmed that the ministry had organised an “open competition” to design a logo that would “best reflect the spirit of this newly emergent group of countries”.

The winning design, chosen by an MEA jury from over 100 entries, was unveiled about a month back. A media statement released by the ministry said the “winning entry (had) cleverly blended a symbolic representation of a peacock, with colours suggesting renewal and resurgence”.

“The jury,” the statement added, “found this most representative of the theme and concept of the forthcoming summit.”

On March 5, the ministry awarded a cash prize of Rs 50,000 to the designer, Sonesh Jain.

MEA sources now say the jury should have been more careful, though Jain insists his logo was inspired by traditional Indian motifs of the peacock, India’s national bird. He says he once read a poem about how the colours of a peacock’s feathers shine when it dances.

The 20-year-old from Gwalior, who launched a design start-up a year back, says some of his classmates did point out the similarities with the NBC logo but claims he can prove that his work is totally different.

He also lists the differences. Jain told The Telegraph that while the NBC logo had six feathers that were rounded, those in his design numbered five and were pointed. The colours, too, are different, he said.

The Brics logo has green, yellow, red, saffron and blue feathers, while the NBC feathers are yellow, orange, red, purple, blue and green. Also, unlike the NBC logo, the Brics design has two smaller feathers.

Officials said the jury did consider the similarities but found enough “differences”, including that the logo also resembled the lotus the national flower.

But not everyone saw the lotus in the logo. Last month, on its blog ‘India Real Time’, the Wall Street Journal carried a long write-up on the similarities in the two logos and asked readers to comment.

One reader, Ekta Jain, dismissed the Brics logo as “copied stuff”. Another, Akash, said he found it hard to understand how the “esteemed” jury selected a “look-alike” logo. “I doubt the type of competition it could have been,” he wrote.

This is, however, not the first time that the government has run into a controversy over pictorial designs.

Last year, England footballer John Terry’s managers threatened legal action after health and government advertising officials approved, without his knowledge, the use of a doctored photograph on cigarette packets for an anti-smoking message. The blurred photograph showed the Chelsea captain’s lungs filled with black tar as part of the “Smoking Kills” campaign.

The health ministry later issued a clarification, saying the image had “nothing to do with John Terry”.

Mumbai-based lawyer Sajid Mohamed, who deals with trademark-related issues, said the NBC can move court to request an injunction on the use of the logo. “The court might issue an injunction to the organisers of the summit against the use of the logo if it thinks the logo is similar to that of the television network.”

He said if it wanted, the network can even file for damages but added that such claims are difficult to get.

In India, the NBC logo is carried by its affiliate CNBC TV18 and is familiar to all viewers of business news.

Not much behind Brics is original. The grouping had borrowed the acronym from a paper by Jim ’Neill titled “Building Better Global Economic Brics”, where the economist predicted the shift in global economic power away from the developed G7 countries to emerging economies.

Brics was institutionalised at the first meeting for foreign ministers in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September 2006. It expanded to include South Africa in 2010 and became Brics.

Its five members now cumulatively account for nearly 26 per cent of the world’s geographical area, 43 per cent of its population, 18 per cent of its trade and 25 per cent of the global GDP.