Disney helps Pleasant Goat fight pirates
The owner of Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf, a popular children's cartoon on the mainland, has teamed up with Walt Disney to fight counterfeiters as the companies struggle to protect their intellectual property.
'The annual sales of counterfeited and genuine licensed product of Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf as a whole are equivalent to the sales of Mickey Mouse products on the mainland,' said Soh Szu-wei, the chief executive officer of Imagi International, which acquired the Pleasant Goat brand in an offer with a consideration up to HK$1.05 billion in February.
Disney has authorised Pleasant Goat products to carry a 'Disney Licensed Merchandise' label in a consumer product agreement.
Imagi said its income from licensing fees rose 60 per cent year on year in the first nine months, even though counterfeit products have taken a significant part of the market at the expense of genuine products. More than 20 million licensed products of Pleasant Goat were manufactured annually in China by about 200 licensees, he said.
To show its determination to fight the copycats, Imagi has filed about 500 lawsuits on the mainland. Soh said co-operating with Disney gave it more firepower against illegal products.
Pleasant Goat, which is broadcast by 60 mainland television channels, is ranked among the top five cartoons on mainland television, but there are no international cartoons in the top 10 because Beijing limits the airing of foreign cartoons and bans them from primetime broadcast.
'We cannot count on this kind of trade protection as China needs to open up its market at any point after its admission into the World Trade Organisation,' said Francis Leung Pak-to, Imagi chairman.
'The co-operation with Disney could help us to expand our market reach.'
The company also signed an agreement with the television distribution arm of Disney to help to distribute Pleasant Goat television episodes on Disney's Asian network from January.
They want to explore new markets in Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong because the mainland market was saturated, with a penetration rate of 93 per cent.
To reduce reliance on Pleasant Goat, the company will develop two new brands through a mobile game application to be launched in the first quarter of next year.
Imagi will help Disney to crack the highly regulated film market on the mainland by inserting one of its character, Kungfu Dragon, in the fourth Pleasant Goat movie.
Imagi was on the verge of bankruptcy after Astro Boy, a movie in which it invested HK$500 million, was poorly received when it hit the market in 2009.
After a restructuring by Leung over the last year, the company's loss narrowed 91 per cent to HK$46.7 million in the first six months to September 30.