This South Cotabato gas station turns heads with its Hello Kitty theme. But is it legal?

September 27, 2019 - 7:18 PM
Tres Marias Hello Kitty
A Hello Kitty-inspired gasoline station amused Filipinos but might be facing some serious trademark infringement. (Photo from Hiezel Belonio via The STAR)

A gasoline station in South Cotabato gained traction on social media for its Hello Kitty designs but there were questions raised about its authority to use characters that are exclusively licensed by Sanrio.

Facebook user Hiezel Belonio shared pictures of the gasoline station named Tres Marias Hello Kitty located in Surallah, where she went to for a vacation.

According to reports, she initially saw pictures of it on social media and then decided to drop by the area when she had the opportunity.

“Namangha po ako kasi kakaiba po siya na gasoline station. Pati CR nila Hello Kitty din po,” Belonio said.

The gasoline station is heavily adorned with Hello Kitty designs, from the walls to its pumps or fuel dispensers.

Hello Kitty Gasoline station…😻😻😻Surallah South Cotabo…

Posted by Belonio Hiez on Sunday, September 8, 2019


It is owned by Noime and Francis Murillo and has been with the family for six years already.

Noime recently renovated it to her liking since she is a longtime fan of the famous fictional character since childhood.

While most Filipinos were impressed with the gasoline station’s design and overall theme, some questioned its legal authority to use the characters of Sanrio Co., Ltd. in its business.

Sanrio’s trademark and copyright policy 

Sanrio is the company that designs, produces and licenses products with Hello Kitty characters.

Based on its company profile and copyright policy uploaded by a Malaysian trademark and intellectual property consultant, using images of Sanrio characters on products without the permission of the company is illegal.

These are Hello Kitty, My Melody, Keroppi, Badtz-Maru, Chococat and Kuroumi, among others.

Sanrio’s trademark and copyright policy are not limited to images on products. It also includes character artwork, names, images, graphics, text and trade names.

“Copying, reproduction, and/or republication are strictly prohibited,” its policy states.

The specific rules about copyright infringement reads:

“As a general matter, Hello Kitty® copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work such as information contained within including but not limited to character artwork, names, images, graphics, text and trade names are reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of Sanrio.”

Since it is protected under copyright and trademark law, products that bear the Hello Kitty brand or logo can only be produced by the company itself.

“Failure to obtain such a license could result in the goods being labeled as counterfeit, which are a criminal offense to produce,” the policy noted.

Sanrio stressed that only products “for sale to the general public” are covered by the copyright law.

It has previously filed several infringement lawsuits against companies for the unauthorized use of its licensed characters.