Tuesday, September 26 2006

涼宮ハルヒの商標問題

From reviews and pictures, I’ve become interested in the recent anime series whose title translates fairly well as The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Recently, I’ve seen some comments from fans lamenting the fact that it hasn’t been licensed yet, despite its obvious popularity. Indeed, when I was in the Seattle Kinokuniya recently, there was a display table covered with Haruhi novels and tie-ins.

While watching a few good AMVs, I realized they’ve got a serious problem, and it may not be possible to license the series in the US in its present form. Why not? Because Playboy’s lawyers have no sense of humor.

Haruhi-sama, first-rate bunny girl

That’s not just any bunny-girl costume, it’s the Playboy Bunny costume, and it’s covered by a registered trademark in the US. I looked it up, and Playboy still has active marks covering the bow-tie bunny girl; they’ve never stopped using it for promotions, and with their recent activity in Vegas, it’s becoming more visible again. And, yes, they care about things as minor as short animations produced for a con, and one of the US Dirty Pair comics was retouched to put Kei and Yuri into generic cocktail-waitress outfits.