Just as massively multiplayer game Hello Kitty Online celebrates the character's 36th birthday, a Dutch court ruled that a Hello Kitty friend is too similar to one of the country's beloved characters, yanking the Kitty pal from store shelves.
The Hello Kitty friend in question is "Cathy", a bunny character. According to The Straits Times, a court in Amsterdam ruled that the rabbit resembled Dutch children's book character Miffy.
Miffy was created by Dick Bruna in 1955. Bruna, 83, is quite popular in Japan as is his character Miffy. The rabbit also inspired an Aussie rock tune.
Hello Kitty debuted in the mid-1970s and was created by illustrator Yuko Shimizu. Cathy went on sale in 1976. In a 2008 interview with the Telegraph, Bruna accused Hello Kitty of ripping off Miffy, saying, "That [Hello Kitty] is a copy [of Miffy], I think. I don't like that at all."
The complaint against Cathy, Hello Kitty's friend, was filed by Mercis, the company that manages Bruna's copyrights. The court's ruling means that Cathy merchandise is banned in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. Sanrio, the firm that makes Hello Kitty goods, can no longer sell Cathy items.
If the Cathy ban is broken, Sky News reports, Sanrio must fork over £21,000 (US$34,000) a day, up to £1.75m ($2.8m). "We object to this ruling and do not believe any copyright infringement took place," Sanrio said, "a view we intend to express legally."
No word on how this impacts Hello Kitty Online. Kotaku is following up with the game's publisher and will update should the company comment.