The owners of Peppa Pig, the rosy-cheeked $1bn global phenomenon, are suing a Vietnamese studio that has created a hugely popular YouTube series based on an animated family of wolves.
Entertainment One (eOne), the formerly London-listed owner of Peppa Pig that was acquired by US toy firm Hasbro for £3.3bn in 2019, has filed an action against Sconnect at the high court in London in conjunction with Astley Baker Davies, the company formed by the creators of the children’s character.
The action, brought by the London-based law firm and intellectual property experts Brandsmiths, is for alleged “passing off and copyright infringement” relating to Sconnect’s library of thousands of YouTube videos and burgeoning merchandise business.
The claim form, which gives brief details of the case, also alleges that Sconnect is in breach of six registered trademarks relating to the use of Peppa Pig’s name, images and references in its content to push its own kids franchises by association.
The target of the legal action is Sconnect’s Wolfoo franchise, which revolves around the main character, Wolfoo, “a five-year-old little wolf living on a hill in a small American village” and her family and friends. Wolfoo has rapidly grown to become a major YouTube hit among the same demographic of two- to eight-year-olds that catapulted Peppa into becoming one of the biggest preschool brands in the world. The legal action was first reported by Variety.
Sconnect has three official Wolfoo YouTube channels, with close to 30 million subscribers who have access to thousands of the three-minute episodes available in languages from French to Bahasa, as well as other properties such as stop-motion series WOA Luka and 2-D animation Max’s Puppy.
In a sponsored article, the company boasts that “Wolfoo is dominating YouTube for kids”, and says its whole portfolio of properties attracts 2.5bn online views per month.
In online forums and articles Wolfoo is frequently referred to as similar to Peppa Pig. In 2019, eOne sued a number of individuals over counterfeit merchandise, in both China and its biggest market, the US, to protect its $1bn-plus annual toy sales.
The loveable character, who hit the headlines in November when Boris Johnson referred to a trip to Peppa Pig World theme park in a “rambling” speech to business leaders at a Confederation of British Industry (CBI) event, first appeared in 2004 as a five-minute children’s animation on Channel 5.
Peppa Pig, which is now broadcast in over 40 languages and is available in more than 180 territories worldwide, was created in 2000 by Mark Baker, Neville Astley and Phil Davies.
The trio, who became friends working in the animation department of Middlesex Polytechnic in the mid-1980s, are now multimillionaires and have stepped away from the business.
The huge appeal of the Peppa Pig franchise prompted the Labour party to attempt to piggy-back off the cartoon character’s fame ahead of the 2010 election. The trio turned down the invite.