Is Heidi the cross-eyed opossum, the new Paul ?

Animal trade marks…. our readers may (or may not) recall cuddly polar bear cub Knut from the Berlin zoo who in 2008 was not only the centre of various trade mark disputes but also managed to have his own Vanity Fair cover. Not long afterwards, fluffy polar bear cub Flocke (in English: snowflake) from the Nuremberg zoo was the furry object of a trade mark dispute before the Nuremberg Regional Court (see IPKat reports here and here). Panda cub Fu Long was an (almost) equally strong brand in Austria with the Austrian Patent Office even commenting on the related trade mark dispute in its newsletter. Then last year Germany (and the rest of the football interested world) took an increasing interest in psychic octopus Paul who, from his humble tank at a German zoo, predicted the outcome of several football games at last year's football World Cup. Now sadly deceased, Paul was perhaps the strongest brand of the football World Cup 2010 and the subject of numerous trade mark registrations (see IPKat posts here and here and reports on Marques Class 46 here, here , here and here).

A new year and we have new star on the German zoo animal (trade mark) horizon: Heidi, the overweight and cross-eyed opossum who is residing at the Leipzig zoo. Heidi, we learn from the zoo's dedicated website, is an orphan that was originally found abandoned (together with her sister Naira) in the woods of North Carolina. Heidi was then raised in a wild animal sanctuary and via a Danish zoo has now made her way to the Leipzig zoo, where visitors clearly have taken a shine to the little opossum. How it all came about remains unclear to this Kat but according to German news site "Die Welt", Heidi already has over 200000 Facebook fans (and thus more fans than German Chancellor Angela Merkel with about 65000 fans) as well as her own song on YouTube. The FAZ paper already calls Heidi the "new Knut" and even English papers, such as the Guardian report on the cross-eyed media star: Heidi hype.

Clearly having learned from past mistakes made by other, perhaps less media savvy, zoos, the Leipzig zoo not only has a dedicated website for Heidi (in German and English!) but has already filed several trade mark applications to protect its newest star and brand. "Heidi, das Opossum", "Heidi, das schielende Opossum" (Heidi the cross-eyed opossum) both cover classes 9, 16, 25, 26, 28, and have an application date of 7 January 2011 whereas "Opossum Heidi" covering again classes 9, 16, 25, 26, was filed on 10 January 2011.

Not surprisingly, third parties have also already tried the perennial trick of filing their own competing Heidi trade marks. Looking at the breadth of the specifications of these third party applications ("Opossum Heidi" and "Heidi das Opossum" both covering classes 1 - 45 (yes, all 45 classes) with a filing date of 13 January 2011), this Kat assumes that the applicant either has very ambitious merchandise plans for little Heidi or simply lacks a certain sophistication when it comes to trade marks.

Now, let's see how long it takes before we hear about the first book deals and Heidi plush toys … but hang on… this Kat has just seen a report by German tabloid Bild that Heidi plush toys are already in production (see right). By mere coincidence it appears to also have been Bild who introduced two and a half year old Heidi to the world at large last month with some feature reports….
This Kat would now be inclined to conclude that the idea of a "celebrity zoo animal" is a cultural German (Austrian) phenomenon, if she had not read the IPKat's recent report on Jack, a Newcastle-based monkey that correctly predicted the outcome of the first two cricket test matches between rivals England and Australia in the Ashes series.

A German professor explains the Heidi hype (in German) here
The Leipzig zoo's website with more information about Heidi can be found here
Heidi's song on Youtube can be admired by clicking here
More research and details on Heidi trade marks can be found on here
Is Heidi the cross-eyed opossum, the new Paul ? Is Heidi the cross-eyed opossum, the new Paul ? Reviewed by Birgit Clark on Wednesday, January 26, 2011 Rating: 5


  1. Let's not forget London Zoo's "Ricky the Rockhopper" penguin, complete with a Facebook page.

  2. Animals do not have names until they are given them by people. Animals are not the origin of any goods other than pooh. Zoos which keep them may well wish to finance their activities by selling branded product. However, what is socially wrong, morally evil or commercially unacceptable about third parties associating themselves with something famous? whether it be a cross-eyed opossum or a royal wedding? The Olympic Games required its own statutory, sui generis intellectual property right. It is hard enough to educate the business world about the extent of trademark law without trying to stretch it to inhibit the love of animals.


All comments must be moderated by a member of the IPKat team before they appear on the blog. Comments will not be allowed if the contravene the IPKat policy that readers' comments should not be obscene or defamatory; they should not consist of ad hominem attacks on members of the blog team or other comment-posters and they should make a constructive contribution to the discussion of the post on which they purport to comment.

It is also the IPKat policy that comments should not be made completely anonymously, and users should use a consistent name or pseudonym (which should not itself be defamatory or obscene, or that of another real person), either in the "identity" field, or at the beginning of the comment. Current practice is to, however, allow a limited number of comments that contravene this policy, provided that the comment has a high degree of relevance and the comment chain does not become too difficult to follow.

Learn more here:

Powered by Blogger.