The Japanese company was fined €6.2 million by the European Commission for banning traders from selling Hello Kitty products across border within the European Economic Area. BBC Brussels Correspondent Adam Fleming introduced the topic to his colleague on the latest episode of Brexitcast. Sarcastically, he said: “A very, very important infringement case in the European Commission this week against the company that owns the copyright, the intellectual property to Hello Kitty.
“And it got a wrap on the knuckles, which I’m sure they will be appealing and they deny, about whether people could buy Hello Kitty at market rates in other countries.”
The panel then played the audio of the European Commissioner introducing the case in Brussels as he referred to the famous Japanese character as “the anthropomorphic catgirl”.
The comment sparked the uncontainable laughter of Mr Fleming’s colleague, Laura Kuenssberg, Katya Adler and Chris Mason.
Ms Kuenssberg joked: “I think when I grow up I want to be an anthropomorphic catgirl.”
I think we should never worry again about the possibility of a nuclear war
Mr Fleming pointed out: “And you just missed the bit where he talks about Hello Kitty’s own cat and her boyfriend Daniel.”
The panel burst out laughing again until Katya Adler ironically said: “I love it.
“I think we should never worry again about the possibility of a nuclear war or a trade war between China and the US or the future of our democracy or Brexit, good or bad.
“Because Hello Kitty is being dealt with.”
The European Commission report of the case published on Tuesday read: “Sanrio Company, Ltd. is a Japanese company that designs, licenses, produces and sells products featuring Hello Kitty, an anthropomorphic cat girl also known by her full name Kitty White, and other popular characters such as My Melody, Little Twin Stars, Keroppi or Chococat.
“Through its subsidiary Mister Men Limited, Sanrio also holds the intellectual property rights to the “Mr. Men” and “Little Miss” series of animated characters.
“In June 2017, the Commission opened an antitrust investigation into certain licensing and distribution practices of Sanrio to assess whether it illegally restricted traders from selling licensed merchandise cross-border and online within the EU Single Market.
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“The Commission investigation has found that Sanrio’s non-exclusive licensing agreements breached EU competition rules:
“Sanrio imposed a number of direct measures restricting out-of-territory sales by licensees, such as clauses explicitly prohibiting these sales, obligations to refer orders for out-of-territory sales to Sanrio and limitations to the languages used on the merchandising products.
“Sanrio also implemented a series of measures as an indirect way to encourage compliance with the out-of-territory restrictions. These measures included carrying out audits and the non-renewal of contracts if licensees did not respect the out-of-territory restrictions.
“The Commission has concluded that Sanrio’s illegal practices, which were in force for approximately 11 years (from 1 January 2008 until 21 December 2018), partitioned the Single Market and prevented licensees in Europe from selling products cross-border, to the ultimate detriment of European consumers.”
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