A Chinese social media personality has been jailed and issued harsh fines for selling fake plushes of LinaBell, a Disney Friend of Duffy, on the Chinese version of TikTok.
Fake Duffy & Friends, Other Disney Character Plushes
According to SHINE, the online version of local newspaper Shanghai Daily, six people have been prosecuted in China for selling fake plushes with Mickey Mouse symbols, particularly of popular Duffy & Friends character LinaBell. The pink fox was first introduced at Shanghai Disneyland in September 2021 before coming to Hong Kong and Tokyo the following year.
Of particular note was an online celebrity surnamed Zhu, has 200,000 followers on the short-video platform Douyin, which is the Chinese version of TikTok. He and his wife sold fake Disney dolls and other accessories at low prices during livestream sales in 2021 and 2022, which drew revenue of more than 3 million yuan ($436,300).
A standard LinaBell doll sells for 219 yuan ($31.87), but Zhu sold theirs for as low as 40 yuan ($5.82). Demand often exceeds supply, leading to desperate buyers paying as much as 3,000 yuan ($436.59) for one LinaBell plush.
Zhu and his wife were sentenced to 22 months in prison along with fines of 800,000 yuan (~$116,422) for their crimes, according to the Jing’an Procuratorate, essentially the local prosecutor’s office. Others involved were sentenced to one year probation along with smaller fines. The man pleaded guilty and acknowledged he avoided using Disney words in his broadcasts in a deliberate attempt to skirt intellectual property laws.
In a statement to local media, Shanghai Disney Resort noted this is the first time the Mickey Mouse symbol has been affirmed as a trademark in a criminal case involving intellectual property in China.
Last August, Shanghai Police arrested 17 people in connection with this case — 13 sellers and four connected to the manufacturing process — as well as seized 600 fake plush items. A disgruntled customer reported the operation to local authorities after purchasing a fake LinaBell plush which he found to be of exceptionally low quality for approximately $6 USD. Police found the factory which produced these fakes had reaped a total of more than 20 million yuan ($2.9 million) worth in these knockoffs.
Would you buy a fake Disney plush if unable to pick up a real version? Let us know in the comments below!