The secret life of Hello Kitty

"Hello Kitty: not a cat?" is the striking but -- to this Kat quite unsurprising -- title of an article by Hannah Marsh, published in The Telegraph earlier this week. in relevant part, the article reads (with spellings corrected):
"... D]id you know that Hello Kitty is not a cat, but a young British girl with a twin sister and an entire backstory? Christine R Yano, an anthropologist from the University of Hawaii and visiting professor at Harvard, has spent years studying the phenomenon that is Hello Kitty and her lasting appeal. Speaking to the LA Times, she explains some of the lesser-known facts about the cutesy character.

"Hello Kitty is not a cat," she says. "She's a cartoon character. She is a little girl. She is a friend. But she is not a cat. She's never depicted on all fours. She walks and sits like a two-legged creature. ..."

... She's actually British. She has en entire backstory that sees her living at home outside London with her parents, George and Mary White. Her full name is Kitty White. She has a twin sister called Mimmy White, a cool grandpa called Anthony and a sweet grandma called Margaret. She's a Scorpio. She loves apple pie. As well as her own pet cat, Charmmy, she has a hamster called Sugar, given to her by her friend Dear Daniel."
The reason why this Kat is not surprised to learn that Hello Kitty is not actually a cat is that, many years ago, he did some consultancy work for Express Newspapers, in the course of which the subject of another fictional character arose, Rupert Bear. This nominal ursine (right), despite his ears and facial features, is not a bear at all but a boy (also apparently British) with the face of a bear [a cursory surf of the internet has not yet revealed any source to support this contention but, like Hello Kitty, Rupert behaves in human fashion].  This Kat is fairly certain that there may be others and has a hunch that his readers may be jogging his memory ...

Merpel notes that there is a seamier side to Hello Kitty's existence. Like all valuable intangible assets, she is the subject of a thicket of trade mark registrations.  This is quite normal: while brand extensions can be lucrative, they are most attractive to invest in when the shifting of a popular brand or icon from one product to another is underpinned by legal protection. However, some of these registrations are for quite surprising goods.  For example, Community trade mark EU000103721 (a figurative mark, depicted on the left) is registered for a large number of products that even a pretty imaginative reader would not immediately associate with Hello Kitty.  The list includes:
Class 3 cleaning, polishing, scouring and abrasive preparations
Class 5 preparations for destroying vermin; fungicides, herbicides
Class 8 side arms; razors
Class 9 fire-extinguishing apparatus
Class 11 apparatus for ... sanitary purposes
Class 18 whips
Another of Hello Kitty's Community trade mark registrations, EU003142247 covers some even more unpromising products:
Class 4 industrial oils and greases; diesel oil; gasoline; kerosene; petrol
Class 6 materials of metal for railway tracks
Class 10 artificial limbs, eyes and teeth; tongue scrapers.
Class 12 non-skid devices for vehicle tires.
Class 34 tobacco; smokers' articles.
To the best of this Kat's knowledge, the Hello Kitty portfolio of IPs has not been licensed for use on any of these products, and he doubts that they will be.

Here's one further little-known fact about Hello Kitty: "Goodbye Cathy: Hello Kitty and Miffy settle copycat case", penned in June 2011 by Catherine Lee ("Cat the Kat") and available here, is the all-time most-visited blogpost on this weblog. As of this morning, this post has been visited no fewer than 238,983 times.
The secret life of Hello Kitty The secret life of Hello Kitty Reviewed by Jeremy on Friday, August 29, 2014 Rating: 5


  1. Rupert is a bear.

    Actually, Rupert is the Bear.

    Paddington is also a bear. So is Yogi.

    Micky is a (the) mouse. Donald is a (the) Duck.

    All of the above have humanistic dress and behaviour to a greater or lesser extent.

    Hello Kitty looks like a cat. If she is, indeed, a girl, maybe she should use some of her razors as the whiskers are a little unfeminine for a humanoid. for a cat, they are more acceptable.

    So go on, surprise us. The IPKAT is a can or not.

  2. @IP Factor: if you look carefully at Yogi Bear, Paddington Bear, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, you will see that they are, anatomically speaking, bears, mouse and duck respectively. Rupert Bear and Hello Kitty are humans with animal heads.

    Rupert is definitely "Rupert Bear" and not "Rupert the Bear". The definite article crept in via third party use, in the form of the totally cringeworthy Rupert the Bear song, sung by Jackie Lee here:

    Per Wikipedia at "One of the most memorable elements of the series was the catchy theme song, written by Len Beadle (aka Frank Weston) and Ron Roker, sung by Jackie Lee, which reached number 14 in the UK charts in 1971. The song included the erroneous lyric "Rupert the Bear", even though Rupert has never had the definite article in his name."

  3. None of the above are in point of fact bears, cats or the like. They are, as Sanrio helpfully explains with regard to Hello Kitty, cartoon characters.

    As such, the normal laws of evolutionary biology need not apply. Surprise that they may not conform to such laws should therefore be at a level with the surprise that they can talk, use tools and machines, exhibit emotions and analytical skills in a way not usually associated with animals.

    I am just as surprised by the fact that Hello Kitty is an English girl with a giant cat head as I am with the large number of other fairly improbable things that occur in the medium of the cartoon. I invite others to exhibit the same or similar level of surprise.

  4. " I invite others to exhibit the same or similar level of surprise."

    Can I pull out my William Shatner SNL "get a life, it's just a tv show" response?

  5. Rupert Bear had a friend called Sir Humphrey Pumphrey, who was a well-known and much-loved intellectual property lawyer and latterly judge, now alas passed away


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