Sakuranbo Elementary School Fiasco

Sakuranbo, a Japanese word for cherry, sounds quite innocent. Probably so if you stick that as name of the elementary school, well, unless it was already being used by mature themed sexual game (eroge) group.

Here’s what happened. In Higashine city in Yamagata prefecture, there is new elementary school being built. Since Higashine city is known for its cherry produce, they are pushing to name many of their city features with name of cherry — and it is now natural for the city to try to follow that trend with their newly building elementary school.

While they were searching for possible overlap, they seems to have done many kind of checking, but one very simple thing — searching on the Internet.

Searching for Sakuranbo Elementary School (さくらんぼ小学校) on Google and other search engine reveals that this name already is being used as branding for mature game. The city was notified by residents about this problem. Mayor of the city, Seigo Tsuchida, initially responded their lack of intension to reconsider its name, with reason “by changing the name, we are approving mature games.”

For the meantime, Sakuranbo Elementary School, the mature game group, announced on their webpage, about their willingness of cooperate with school by changing the name of the group if necessary.

Later, the city reversed its decision of not changing the name, with mayor’s statement that “I feel like I was struck by a car.”

Analyzing the whole situation, this situation well could be prevented by the city conducting simple search on the Internet. Sakuranbo Elementary School, the mature game brand, has been in its existence for 8 years since 2002, and search would easily reveal existence of the group. It’s city’s sole responsibility to make sure their branding is not overlapping with existing entities.

Legally, anyone who knowing something about trademark would see that they aren’t in infringement to each other, as they are in different class. Therefore, the city should be legally clear to open up their new elementary school in that name. This only got problem because the group was offering mature products.

The group’s offer of changing their branding is extraordinary, considering they are legally not required to.

The city, in other hand is under big fire, possibly perpetual for years to come. Apparently, the mayor of the city has received message from his staff by this problem — with no luck persuading the mayor.

It is worthwhile to note that for past 10 years, the mayor, Seigo Tsuchida was reelected without contests 4 times. Perhaps lack of residents’ interests choosing proper leader might have also contributed this problem.

Borrowing Tsuchida’s word, no car was there to struck the city, it was city rammed into the wall.