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Slime fight: 12yo Aucklander takes on global giant

Lincoln Tan, NZ Herald ,
Publish Date
Wed, 22 Aug 2018, 5:30AM

Slime fight: 12yo Aucklander takes on global giant

Lincoln Tan, NZ Herald ,
Publish Date
Wed, 22 Aug 2018, 5:30AM

Katharina Weischede calls herself the "Slime Princess" because she likes making slime and loves dressing up as a princess.

But when the 12-year-old Aucklander tried to register a trade mark to turn her slime-making hobby into a home-based business, it drew an unhappy response from global entertainment giants Nickelodeon.

Katharina, a Year 7 student at St Mary's College in Ponsonby, has started a Givealittle pageto raise money for a legal battle with the "giants" to keep her trademark.

Nickelodeon's New York-based parent company, Viacom, issued a notice opposing her Slime Princess trademark claiming it was in breach of its own marks of "Slime" and "Nickelodeon Slime".

Nickelodeon is well known for dumping buckets of slime on to famous guests each year at the Kids Choice Awards.

Host John Cena gets slimed at the 2018 Kids' Choice Awards. Photo / AP
Host John Cena gets slimed at the 2018 Kids' Choice Awards. Photo / AP

"I thought starting this business would be fun, but this has made me really worried," Katharina said.

"I can't sleep at night since I got the letter, and sometimes I even find it hard to study."

Viacom said in its notice of opposition that the Slime Princess mark "would be likely to deceive or cause confusion" and "would be contrary" to the Fair Trading Act and the Trade Marks Act.

Nickelodeon said Katharina's mark was similar to one or more of its own marks and the products listed were similar to its own.

Katharina said it has been her dream to have her own business and also show that everyone can work hard and be the best person they could be.

"But somehow, others find allowing me a chance to grow would be disastrous for them," she said on Givealittle.

"So, a giant is battling over my name - Slime Princess. This giant has got so much money and I don't. I feel like I am Snow White with the Evil Queen wanting her beauty so she wants her dead; and Rapunzel, with Mother Gothel trying to hide her away."

Katharina said she had worked hard at being the Slime Princess.

"I do not want anyone, like this monied, well connected giant to take my passion away because he can fight me more," she said.

"I hope the giant will not slam the door and let me freeze. I hope he would turn into prince charming like the beast did in beauty and the beast. Perhaps there is goodness in his heart that he would take me in his castle so I can prosper more."

Katharina has been running her Slime Princess business for two years. She makes her own slime and has built a following on social media.

Her mother Maricel Weischede said it was "entirely Katharina's idea" to fight Viacom.

Katharina Weischede says it has been her dream to have her own business. Photo / Michael Craig
Katharina Weischede says it has been her dream to have her own business. Photo / Michael Craig

"It would be so much easier to just give it up, but Katharina's so passionate about the whole thing and says she will not be giving up without a fight," she said.

"So what do you do as parents, other than give her the support she needs."

Parents have also helped with the printing of business cards, stickers and T-shirts emblazoned with the Slime Princess logo which Weischede designed.

"As a mother I am devastated to see what's happening, Katharina is so affected by it all," she added.

"We are fighting not so much for the rights to run the business, but the principle behind it."

Maricel Weischede said they would argue that the word "slime" is generic, just like beer or bread.

Her lawyer Alex Lee said they did not receive any cease and desist letter from Viacom to stop using the name.

"I can confirm my clients intend to continue to utilise the goodwill and branding that they have developed," Lee said.

Viacom, which owns Nickelodeon through its Viacom Media Networks division's Nickelodeon Group unit, is valued by investors to be worth US$14 billion (NZ$19.04 billion) according to report by Recode.

Katharina's Slime Princess has about $5000 in its bank account, and her mother estimates the business to be worth about $20,000.

University of Auckland senior lecturer Rob Batty, a trade mark law specialist, said anyone could oppose a trade mark application within three months of the application being advertised.

"From Viacom's perspective opposing the application may be understandable, though in this case, it could be perceived as being a bit heavy-handed," Batty said.

"I am speculating, but it may be that Viacom seeks to negotiate an arrangement about the use of Slime Princess moving forward."

Viacom has registered Slime in NZ since 2009 and Nickelodeon slime with effect from last year.

"The next step is for Maricel and Katharina to consider whether to file a counterstatement or to abandon their trade mark application," Batty said.

Once evidence is filed, if any, the matter would be decided by an assistant commissioner at the Intellectual Property Office of NZ.

"They certainly have a chance of succeeding in the opposition and ultimately register the Slime Princess trade mark," Batty added.

"Unfortunately, the process can sometimes be long and relatively expensive."

Nickelodeon had yet to respond to a request for comment by deadline last night.

Kiwi companies trademark battles

It's not the first time Kiwis have been embroiled in trademark battles.

In May Lion tried to trademark the word "dank", a word now commonly used by craft brewers to describe strong, heavily-hopped ales.

The company withdrew it's application after craft beer fans aired concerns about it.

In January, a Wellington cafe found themselves in the middle of a trademark battle with Coca Cola.

Claire Rientjes, 21, and Egemen Yeter, 25, were threatened with legal action after naming their business Innocent Foods.

Coca Cola owned a line of cold drinks under the name Innocent and had secured the trademark for the word in about 40 different categories in the hospitality industry.

The couple were forced to re-brand their company.

My Food Bag also faced a legal threat from German company this year for the use of the phrase "Hello Fresh" in its branding.

Berlin-based food delivery service HelloFresh sent the New Zealand company a letter in response to a My Food Bag ad that featured the phrasing "Hello Fresh Start the Programme".

My Food Bag took a tongue-in-cheek approach writing back to them saying: "In short we've decided 'yeah, nah', and we wish you fellas a good day. Otherwise our lawyers, Gumboot & Gumboot, are always good for a yarn."

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