Businessman buys rights to East German emblem

An enterprising western German businessman hopes to profit from a recent surge in "Ostalgie" — or nostalgia for the formerly communist east — after buying the rights to the official emblem of East Germany.

The official emblem of East Germany. bpa photo

The Karlsruhe-based businessman, Manfred Jansen, paid the German patent office the paltry sum of 300 Eur ($360) to acquire the rights for the logo, which depicts a hammer and compass set in a wreath of gain.

For his nominal investment, Jansen has gained the right to demand royalties from anyone putting the emblem on T-shirts, stickers and a host of other novelties. In a country which has displayed a growing fascination for the communist kitsch of the now defunct state, that could mean big business.

A recent wave of "Ostaglie" has already swept several books as well as a number of TV shows and films to commercial success. "Good Bye, Lenin!", a film harking back to the eastern past, was a big hit for audiences across Europe and has won a slew of German and international film prizes.

While rules prohibit entrepreneurs from acquiring the rights to the symbols of countries that still exist, there are no such rules for the emblems of defunct states, said Jansen.

East Germany ceased to exist in October 1990, 41 years after its foundation under Soviet influence, when it was reunited with West Germany.

Critics say that Jansen's move to profit from the legacy of the brutal East German regime is in poor taste. But for his part, Jansen says that his latest acquisition is business as usual.

"I have good friends from the east and we laugh about this," he said. "I'm sure there are people in the east who would have done the same thing if they had had the idea."