I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot lately…
Basically, licensing concerns products that feature Rilakkuma designs with the official permission/blessings of San-X, but are not made directly by San-X themselves.
For example, if you were a tech accessories company and you wanted to produce and sell Rilakkuma laptop covers, you would have to get the Rilakkuma license from San-X in order to legally use Rilakkuma’s design on your merchandise, and the license would be different depending on whether you were based in Japan or not.
To clarify a bit more: for me, there are 4 basic categories of Rilakkuma goods:
- Direct from San-X Goods
- Campaigns/Collaboration Goods
- Licensed Goods
- Inauthentic/Fake Goods
Additionally, licensed goods differ from the campaign/collaboration goods because licensed goods generally come from other toy companies themselves: campaign/collaboration goods are generally a seasonal offering with a non-toy related company.
As the name implies, campaign/collaboration items are often focused on the joint nature of the two companies, like buy a Pizza Hut pizza and get a Rilakkuma pizza cutter … or a promotional campaign like buy a bunch of Lawson food and get a Rilakkuma plate – while licensed goods generally just feature Rilakkuma with little input in design from the company producing it. Other examples of campaign/collaboration goods include Mister Donut, KFC, and Pancake Days.
Licensing is a significant part of San-X: they have a HUGE booth at most licensing expos:
Some of my favorite Rilakkuma plushies – like my Fansclub UFO Catcher plushies – are made under license, not directly from San-X!
Most recently, my Nara Rilakkuma was a product of HNA with a Rilakkuma license. I also have Rilakkuma furikake from Nagatanien, a combination lock from Bestin (Korea), and angpau (紅包) from Sun Hing (Hong Kong). They are all wonderful and I can’t imagine my collection without them.
When I started collecting Rilakkuma, I used to get confused with how Fansclub fit in with the San-X world, but fortunately, Fansclub plushies have a pretty consistent look and format to them, and they are cataloged by Fansclub meticulously. At first, I wasn’t sure if my Nara Rilakkuma was legitimate or not because he had such a different look, but this got cleared up as I started looking into Rilakkuma licensing.
However, I think things do start to get a little confusing when other other plush toy companies receive a Rilakkuma license.
For example, Dream International, a Hong Kong based plush toy company, recently got a Rilakkuma license. They showed off their line at 2013 New York International Toy Fair:
In addition, Sun Hing Toys, the company that produced my angpau, also has a licensed Rilakkuma plushie line, and there are probably several more companies out there I haven’t mentioned, too.
I don’t really know how I feel about these because they seem somewhat inconsistent with the other San-X Rilakkuma plushies (e.g. the tag is on the ear??), but your mileage may vary.
How to tell
Basically, companies holding official Rilakkuma licenses are all over the place in terms of quality and design, so it’s really hard to apply all the authentication guidelines that we’ve worked so hard to craft as a community, but the good news is that it is rather easy to tell which ones have the official seal of approval from San-X.
Licensed goods are required to display their license seal in some way, and licenses differ between domestic (Japan) and overseas (not Japan) products. Most products do so with a holographic sticker, but some just print it directly on their packaging – I took some photos, but it’s kind of difficult to capture holographic images so bear with me:
Generally, the circular holographic sticker (if used) will have:
- San-X logo with clover X
- “© San-X Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved”
- San-X clover logo repeating diagonally in the background
- License ID printed in black
- Text on the bottom that says “TRADEMARK” or “OVERSEAS” for domestic and overseas products, respectively
- Small holo circle above the TRADEMARK/OVERSEAS text
The printed licenses follow a similar format, but without the fancy holographic stuff. They’re not as consistent as the stickers, but generally most of the information is still there.
In addition, overseas items will print a line that says “A Licensing Programme of RM”. RM Enterprises is a character licensing company that deals with international licensing (mainly in Asia). As far as I know, this line isn’t printed on the domestic products, but then again, I can’t read Japanese T^T
As a complete disclaimer, the licensed goods I’m looking at have been released in the past 3 years – I think the designs might differ slightly in earlier licenses.
If you’re unsure about a company’s license status, it is pretty easy to look up the company online – they usually list their license information there.
After that, it’s up to you whether the quality of the product is up to snuff, I guess haha.
As an additional note, I think the San-X Rilakkuma Blog only posts about the domestic licensed stuff occasionally, not the overseas licensed products. Also, Rilakkuma Stores stock domestic licensed goods (I’ve seen HNA, Re-Ment, Nanoblock, and a bunch of food products and more), while I don’t think they do with the overseas ones.
What do y’all think about licensed Rilakkuma goods? Do you have any, and if so, which ones/brands?
Personally, I love my licensed goods – most of mine are domestic products, and I think their Rilakkuma goods are very diverse and well-developed! However, I’m not sure if I’d buy a licensed plush outside the Fansclubs, but I guess I’ll have to assess them when I see one in person.