Hello Kitty sues Oklahoma child beauty pageant

Hello Kitty Has No Mouth, and Must Sue

The Oklahoman reports,

The Japanese company that owns the Hello Kitty brand has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against an Oklahoma child beauty pageant that reportedly used the cartoon cat’s image on its tiaras and trophies.

Sanrio Co. filed the suit in federal court against Cherilyn Holden and Kristi Musick, who run beauty pageants in Oklahoma under the name Definitely Divas. The suit claims Definitely Divas used the image without permission in the “Tickle Me Pink” beauty pageant last September.

By all appearances Sanrio has a very strong case.

The complaint can be found at this link.

But what really “tickles me pink” about this lawsuit, is that Sanrio takes a stand against child beauty pagaents.

Sanrio explains that it is its “policy to utilize the popularity of its internationally famous HELLO KITTY character to promote girls’ rights and the improvement of girls’ wellbeing  worldwide.”   And later it notes that it does not  “authorize use of its famous HELLO KITTY character name or image in connection with children’s beauty pageants, nor does Sanrio authorize any manufacturers to create Hello Kitty crowns, trophies, t-shirts, or other merchandise to be used in children’s beauty pageants.”

Don’t get me wrong.  I enjoy watching Toddlers and Tiaras as much as anyone (or maybe more), but I’m not a fan of child beauty pageants.

As for the lawsuit, the Defendants have a tough road ahead of them.

Defendants, according to the complaint, promised Sanrio that it would stop using the Hello Kitty name and image:

We will definitely remove all Hello Kitty on anything that even sounds like Hello Kitty . . . As of now, we have not purchased crowns nor trophies . . . We are going to give crowns that do not have Hello Kitty on them nor trophies . . . . After getting your email we cancelled our order . . . .

But then, Defendants went ahead with the Hello Kitty pageant anyway:

Defendants distributed counterfeit HELLO KITTY crowns and counterfeit HELLO KITTY trophies to pageant participants.  Defendants also gave the participants sashes displaying the “Definitely Divas” name along with the HELLO KITTY name and image and used a HELLO KITTY image as a hand stamp.

Below is a video of a contestant in the pageant at issue.  If you watch until the end, you can see all the Hello Kitty loot she wins.

It will be interesting to see how this unfolds.  I don’t think you will see Definitely Divas using Hello Kitty’s image anymore.  In fact, you may not see much of Definitely Divas after this.

~ by siouxsielaw on July 20, 2012.

6 Responses to “Hello Kitty sues Oklahoma child beauty pageant”

  1. I wonder if Hello Kitty will take action against the use of their brand image on assault rifles, especially after the tragedy in Colorado and Holmes’ use of an AR-15 rifle: http://www.2dayblog.com/2008/01/24/hello-kitty-ar-15-assault-rifle/

  2. Just curious, why can’t the promoters just turn around and blame the company they are buying the images from? Shouldn’t the company that is actually printing and selling the images be the ones to get in trouble? I get that Sanrio is trying to take a stand here, it just seems like it would be slippery to pin this on the pageant promoters. But then… I’m no lawyer. 😉

    • Good questions.

      The promoters can, and already have, blamed the company from which they purchased the counterfeit trophies and crowns. But that won’t get the promoters very far because Sanrio had already notified them that the goods were counterfeit. The promoters, as it sounds from the complaint, chose to ignore Sanrio.

      As for the counterfeiters, they may get in trouble too. I would imagine that Sanrio will go after the company making the merchandise. Or at least report the company to the authorities. Though, I don’t really know. It can be very difficult to crack down on counterfeiters.

      As for pinning everything on the promoters, I don’t think Sanrio’s main concern in this case is the counterfeit goods; rather, it is the promoters’ unauthorized use of the Sanrio brand. Not only are the promoters profiting by using Hello Kitty to market their pageant, they arguably are misleading people into believing that Sanrio endorsed and/or sponsored the pageant.

  3. Then the Hello Kitty owners need to sue anyone that makes Hello Kitty items on Esty and Ebay. They aren’t “authorized”.

  4. […] month, Siouxsie Law wrote an article about HELLO KITTY owner Sanrio suing an Oklahoma child beauty pageant for use of […]

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