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Giant panda cub inspires rush to trademark her name

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Products on sale in December on the Ameyoko shopping street in Taito Ward, Tokyo, near Ueno Zoo.

The Yomiuri ShimbunXiang Xiang, the giant panda cub born in June at Ueno Zoo in Taito Ward, Tokyo, has been the subject of intense interest, so much so that even trademarks of her name are drawing attention.

After the name was announced in September, trademark applications were submitted not only by the Tokyo Zoological Park Society, which runs the zoo, but by various companies and individuals. Xiang Xiang appears to have taken the business world by storm as well as the public.

First come, first served

The baby panda’s name was chosen from more than 320,000 submissions that came from all over the country. In late August, these were whittled down to eight candidates.

The zoo did not announce the last eight choices, instead conducting a behind-the-scenes investigation into whether any of the names overlapped with other pandas or products.

On Sept. 13, the society submitted trademark applications for Xiang Xiang and the other final candidates, in both katakana and kanji characters, to the Japan Patent Office. Then through discussions with the Tokyo metropolitan government and the Chinese side, a decision was made on Sept. 25 to pick Xiang Xiang, because it was easy to say and had a cheerful quality.

After the choice was made, the society withdrew the trademark applications for the other candidates.

Trademarks are essentially a first-to-file system, in which rights are given to whoever applies first. After a trademark is registered, other parties cannot use it in the same field without permission.

The society submitted applications in several fields for use in a variety of products, such as food and beverages, toys, and clothing.

“It would’ve been a problem if a third party got ahead of us and we couldn’t use [the trademark] freely. We took the procedure seriously,” an official who was in charge of the matter said.

Ueno Zoo is home to 2,500 animals and other living things from about 350 species, but only pandas have trademarks. The names of Tong Tong, born in 1986, as well as Xiang Xiang’s mother and father — Shin Shin and Ri Ri — have been trademarked.

‘Strong presence’

A company based in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo, that is involved in sales promotions and other businesses involving fragrances submitted applications to trademark Xiang Xiang in both kanji and katakana for perfumes and other fields on the day the name was announced.

“It’s a perfect name for our products,” the company’s president said. “Pandas have a strong presence. It would be interesting to recreate the scent of a panda.”

An accessories company based in Taito Ward submitted trademark applications in November for wristwatches and other fields. Other firms have also filed applications, including one for medical devices.

“It’s natural for a lot of applications to be filed, because the popularity means the name Xiang Xiang could have some brand power in the future,” said Shoichi Okuyama, former chairman of the Japan Patent Attorneys Association. “But making a business out of the rights themselves would be a malicious use of the system.”

A Tokyo metropolitan government official who oversees the management of the zoo said, “Our focus is on whether [the trademarks] will be used in problematic ways.”

According to the Japan Patent Office, trademark applications take an average of six to eight months, which means the Xiang Xiang trademarks will probably be approved around springtime.Speech

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