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Monday, 23 January 2012

Knut saga revisited

When the BBC recently reported on the birth of little polar bear cub Siku at a Danish zoo at the end of 2011, this Kat immediately had to think of the late polar bear Knut's fate. Both cubs had to be hand-reared after their respective mothers could not care for the cubs. See the earlier IPKat posts on Knut here, here and here and MARQUES Class 46 posts on Knut here, here, here and here.

Having followed poor Knut's story from cuddly cub to famous celebrity zoo animal with a massive marketing machine (including various trade mark disputes, see "Knut, Flocke, and Co: the bear facts revealed"; JIPLP 2008, pages 764-774, available in full here) until his untimely death at the age of four at Berlin zoo in March 2011, this Kat feared that it would not take long until someone would try to market and trade mark little Siku. However, so far, there does not even appear to be a CTM for Siku -- what a difference to the "140 million dollar polar bear Knut."

Mostly prompted by the fact Bloomberg Business Week was investigating the strength of a Knut's brand even after his death, this Kat has been wondering for a while whether Knut's death would put an end to the zoo's persistent exploitation of Knut's story. Could there still be any marketing ideas left that the Berlin zoo would explore after Knut's death? It appears so. First, Knut's body was put on ice for several months after his death and then the zoo announced plans to have Knut's stuffed body on display -- very much to the bewilderment of many German observers. So, why not let go of the whole story and let Knut rest in peace in dignity? However, it transpired that the Berlin zoo was planning a memorial for Knut. The German public was initially less than inspired when the zoo held a competition to design the memorial: the only entry received was by a seven-year-old girl.

So, just when I thought that even I should let the Knut story go and focus on the Easter bunny trade mark disputes, German media last week reported on two new Knut related stories. First we learn that Knut's father has become the proud father of polar bear cub Anori - Knut's half brother. Anori was born at Wuppertal zoo, which should not be confused with the Zoo in Neumünster which was once involved in a dispute with Berlin zoo over Knut royalties. So far, I could not find any Anori trade marks, but this may just be a question of time...

The second Knut-related story takes us back to Berlin, where the Berlin zoo this week revealed that there would be a Knut memorial after all. See here for details of the design. Knut will be immortalised in a bronze sculpture created by Ukrainian sculptor Josef Tabachnyk, who reportedly beat 40 other entries in the initially slow Knut memorial competition. The memorial, which shows Knut as a sad and pensive animal, does look tasteful. Nonetheless, the whole story does leave some bitter aftertaste. It appears that the Knut saga is not yet over.

This Kat is also wondering whether the idea of a celebrity zoo animal is a purely German (and Austrian) one: Knut, Flocke, octopus Paul during the World Cup, Heidi, the opossum, Jack the monkey, Fu Long the panda cub in Vienna? Has something similar ever happened in a non-German speaking country?

Many thanks go to IP enthusiast and polar animal lover Harry (Harriet) Robinson for alerting this Kat to the latest Knut memorial plans.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ling Ling and Hsing Hsing were very famous panda bears in the Washington, D.C.'s National Zoo, an arm of the Smithsonian Institution. The zoo changed it's logo to a panda after it acquired the bears. No trademark registrations I could find, though, although there was an abandoned application for "Ling Ling."

Hans Sachs said...

In the true spirit of capitalist-driven and ultra-litigious American IP enforcement and the anti-piratical pursuit of truth, beauty and justice for all, one wonders whether or not there is any actionable confusion on either side of the pond between "Knut", the cuddly and adorable late polar bear, and "Newt", the attention-seeking and apparently cuddly by several wives, etc., presidential candidate.

The certainly sound alike and

Jim Davies said...

London had Guy the Gorilla, who died in the 70s. Ian Botham, one of England's greatest all round cricketers, got his nickname from him. He (the gorilla!) has a bronze statue at the zoo.

I suspect they are not licensed, but a quick Google search offers up Guy the Gorilla Slippers, still available on Amazon!

Isaac Knuton said...

My heirs would like a share of any royalties.

Anonymous said...

London Zoo also has Ricky the rockhopper penguin, complete with his own Facebook page,

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ricky-the-rockhopper-penguin/100502556671565

Birgit Clark said...

I have also just been alerted to the story Shamu, the Killer Whale.

So, it appears this is not a German phenomenon alone - I think I am relieved.

Anonymous said...

Barcelona had the long-lived Snowflake, an albino gorilla. An asteroid was named after him, and he has recently inspired a feature film.

Not to be outdone (of course), Madrid had Chu Lin, the first giant panda born in Europe (warning: dangerously cute photo).

Anonymous said...

In a marginally related case New Zealand has Ritchie McCow who provided Rugby World Cup predications:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10761468

His reward upon retirement? Castration:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/rugby-world-cup-2011/news/article.cfm?c_id=522&objectid=10776781

Anonymous said...

Please do not forget about Toronto, Canada's gay (or maybe "bi") penguin pair...Buddy and Pedro

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/story/2011/12/12/gay-penguins-breeding-toronto.html

Almost Emeritus said...

Brumas the polar bear cub, born 1949, is considered to have been responsible for the London Zoo's highest ever annual attendance in 1950, and gave rise to a considerable souvenir business, including the inevitable soft toys. Someone even wrote a song about her that I recall hearing on the radio as a child.

Anonymous said...

A film of Brumas, and his song, can be viewed and heard at the Pathé web site here:

http://www.britishpathe.com/video/vicky-autier-and-brumas

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