On 14 June 2017, the EU Commission announced that it was opening an investigation into Sanrio, owner of the Hello Kitty brand. Sanrio have been accused by the Commission of an infringement of Article 101 TFEU, the prohibition of anti-competitive agreements. The infringement relates to Sanrio's use of the Hello Kitty brand on products. The Commission is investigating whether the company breached EU competition rules by restricting their licensees' ability to sell licensed merchandise cross-border and online through the use of their intellectual property rights.
The investigation follows the conclusion of the e-commerce sector enquiry by the Commission in May this year. We have previously commented how the conclusion of that enquiry was fairly unique in that it did not recommend any policy or legislative change. Instead, it rather acted as a successful fishing expedition for the Commission to amass evidence of potential corporate liability. That in itself seems to be the growing policy of the Commission; enforcement first. Perhaps the Commission believes the strongest way of changing com-pany behaviour is to keep targeting individual companies with investigations to reinforce the law and change negative behavioural norms.