Executive jailed for violating Hello Kitty order

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 March, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 March, 2000, 12:00am

A businessman was jailed for two weeks yesterday after being convicted of breaching a court order by making fake Hello Kitty chops.

It was believed to be the first time a person has been jailed for contempt in relation to copyright infringement.

Sanrio, the Tokyo company that created Hello Kitty, took John Yiu Wai-chong and Andy Chiu Chi-man, partners of Miracle Production to the Court of First Instance.

Mr Justice Wally Yeung Chun-kuen found Yiu guilty of contempt of court while Mr Chiu was acquitted due to insufficient evidence.

Barrister Winnie Tam, for Sanrio, said Yiu's company had violated an injunction order imposed by Mr Justice Anthony Rogers on October 6, 1995, to stop making fake cartoon character chops.

Ms Tam told the court that in 1997 or 1998, Yiu's company was found to have produced similar fake chops.

She said the company engaged two private investigators to act as buyers and they purchased 24 chops from Yiu's firm. The court heard the products involved 12 cartoon characters, including Hello Kitty, Little Twin Stars and My Melody.

The judge said a jail term was appropriate and could deter others.

'In any civilised society, to maintain the rule of law, the court's order must be enforced. Anyone who disregards the court order must be punished and punished severely,' he said.

'The disobedience of a court order on your part can perhaps be described as even more serious when what you did is infringement of the copyright of the applicant by producing counterfeit products.' Defence barrister Osman Lam said the defendants had misunderstood the injunction order and were not aware of the serious consequences.

Mr Lam also urged the judge to spare Liu from jail because of the limited number of fake products made.

The judge said he took into consideration the small number of fakes and the amount involved before passing sentence.

He also ordered the defence to pay costs.