Belfast Telegraph

Fur flies as Miffy biffs Cathy in copycat case

By Margaret Canning

Cathy, aged 34, has faced Miffy, 55, in a tense court case in Amsterdam. Loveable rabbit Cathy - an inter-species sister of the ever popular Hello Kitty character - has been deemed to be "too similar" to Dutch rabbit Miffy.

Cathy, manufactured by Japanese company Sanrio, was found to infringe Miffy's copyright. Miffy was created by Dick Bruna in 1955 and has inspired several animated television series in Japan and countless product lines internationally.

Now Sanrio has been ordered to stop making, selling and marketing Cathy-related goods in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, and must pay £21,800 a day if it does not comply.

Sanrio protested: "We object to this ruling and do not believe any copyright infringement took place, a view we intend to express legally.

"At this point, we believe any impact on company earnings will be limited."

Cathy has been marketed since 1976 as one of the friends of Hello Kitty, who has been gracing school bags and pencil cases since 1974. Both have appeared in an animated series.

The case was brought by Mercis Media, Bruna's copyright management firm. Their eagerness to protect the copyright of their cash cow - or should that be, cash rabbit - reflects the immense economic value of cartoon characters.

Developing a brand which children can take to their hearts - ideally successive generations of children - is the holy grail of the toy and cartoon industry.

The makers of shows like In the Night Garden and Peppa Pig are well aware that striking the right type of deal with the makers of merchandise is crucial to the financial life expectancy of their product.

The holders of rights to Iggle Piggle and all the rest will want to attract buyers of their licenses, while manufacturers will want to attach their name to the cuddly characters with the most potential. But how can you spot the potential?

The BBC must have felt like the record company which spurned the Beatles after the phenomenal success of Peppa Pig, which the broadcaster shunned before the porcine found success. Yet jaundiced family comedy in the shape of The Simpsons has emerged as the most successfully licensed TV show ever, boasting 400 official licensees and worldwide retail sales of nearly £5bn.

With riches of that scale up for grabs, no wonder Cathy and Miffy have been at each other's throats.