Earlier this week, Japanese clothing company Uniqlo announced Chinese artist Li Wen Pei had won its UT Grand Prix contest for designing Pokémon T-shirts. He was set to win $10,000 and have his design featured in Pokémon Sword and Shield, set to come to Switch later this year. Uniqlo now says Wen Pei has been disqualified for failing to adhere to the contest’s rules.
“Uniqlo, the Japenase 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.”
Wen Pei’s design included a stylized rendering of a Gyarados sitting above a trio of Magikarp. “Magikarp is the faith in a fan’s mind. Also, the evolution from weakness to mightiness is like a miracle,” he told Uniqlo in his description of the work.
One possible reason the design was disqualified may be that this wasn’t the first time Wen Pei had used the design for commercial purposes, which is against the rules of the competition. According to a translation of a now deleted post on the Chinese social media website Sina Weibo by website Nintendo Soup, Wen Pei had previously sold some phone cases with the artwork on it, and the design then ended up on t-shirts. Wen Pei claimed that its subsequent appearance on T-shirts was due to people pirating his work. In a follow-up post, Wen Pei said that he had explained the matter to Uniqlo.
“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,” the rules for the contest state.
When asked for comment, Uniqlo would not confirm the reason why Wen Pei was disqualified from the contest.