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Russia's Chelyabinsk region wants to trademark itself as world's 'meteorite capital'

The fervor may have died down a bit since Chelyabinsk, Russia was hit by a huge space rock in February, but the region is still working hard to turn that meteorite into money.

As I noted in an earlier post, Chelyabinsk initially went the tourism route. Local officials set up a design contest for a meteorite-themed logo to slap onto calendars, booklets, magnets, and other souvenirs, hoping to capitalize on the hundreds of people who flocked to the area in the days after the interplanetary incident in search of bits of space stone. Now, officials want the region to be an international landmark. The Moscow Times reports today that Chelyabinsk is petitioning Russia's patent service for rights to the title, "the meteorite capital." The paper has more:

The Chelyabinsk region wants an official trademark for use of the meteorite title in products and advertising, and the governor's administration has already submitted an application to the Federal Service for Intellectual Property, Patents and Trademarks, RIA-Novosti reported Wednesday.

According to Natalya Denisova, head of the regional administration's department for special projects, the trademark would most likely be used in tourism services and cultural events, as well as publishing and video products.

"It's unlikely that we'd have a conflict of interest with Chebarkul or with businesspeople. ... We're all after one main goal here: to promote a positive image of the Chelyabinsk region," Denisova said in comments carried by RIA-Novosti.

Chebarkul, a city in Chelyabinsk, was the meteorite's final destination.

If Chebarkul doesn't put up a fight for trademark rights, maybe Antartica will. A Pittsburgh University geologist once called the continent the "meteorite capital of the world," though it appears he did not go so far as to secure a trademark.

VYACHESLAV NIKULIN/EPA

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The corporations imperiled by North Korea's latest brinkmanship

North Korea's move to suspend access to the Kaesong industrial complex, one of the last remaining points of engagement between North and South, has jeopardized more than just diplomatic relations between the two countries -- it has also imperiled the 123 companies that conduct operations there.

Since the complex opened in 2004 as part of Seoul's "Sunshine Policy" toward the North, it has expanded to employ over 50,000 North Koreans and hundreds of South Korean managers. Despite years of cross-border tensions, the complex has been mostly immune to meddling by either side and produces about $2 billion worth of "labor-intensive goods a year" -- making it an important source of hard currency for the North.  

But now that Pyongyang has closed off access to the complex, the companies there risk losing a lot of business, as one executive told The New York Times:

"If this doesn't end in a day or two, it will cause us a serious trouble because we have orders to meet," said Bang Bok-jin, an official at Jaeyoung Solutec Co., which employs 1,000 North Koreans in Kaesong assembling tiny cameras for smart phones and rear-view mirror modules for cars.

So what companies are caught in the mess of North-South brinkmanship? It's a maze of manufacturers of car parts, leather goods, underwear, electronics, cell phone parts, shoes, and textiles. The BBC pegs the total number of companies at 123. For a complete list of the companies, the latest comprehensive assessment comes from the Congressional Research Service's 2011 report. We've provided the complete list of companies below: