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'Meatball' the bear has new children's book, name

Sanctuary owner says naming rights dispute had nothing to do with story's title.

April 02, 2014|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com
  • Lions Tigers & Bears is now selling a children's book about Meatball the Glendale Bear, whom they refer to as Meatball 210 following the copyright hullabaloo over his naming rights that began after the nonprofit cut ties with the woman who named Meatball and operated the Twitter account that catapulted him to stardom.
Lions Tigers & Bears is now selling a children's… (Raul Roa / Staff…)

The Glendale bear affectionately called “Meatball” by fans has a new children’s book and a new name.

The San Diego sanctuary that took in the roughly 500-pound black bear — who got his name after eating frozen meatballs from a garage refrigerator in a Glendale home in 2012 — is currently selling books called “The Story of Meatball 210.”

The owner of the sanctuary, called Lions, Tigers & Bears, said the book title has nothing to do with a flap that took place late last year over rights to the name Meatball.

The sanctuary and the woman who created the bruin’s name and a popular Twitter account that shot the bear to stardom tussled over rights to the animal’s name and ownership of the Twitter account, @TheGlendaleBear.

The two sides mostly have been at a standstill since that time. However, in December, about a month after the name hullabaloo was reported in the press, the sanctuary filed a trademark application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the name “Meatball 210,” blending the nickname the woman, Sarah Aujero, gave the bear and the number on a tag that California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials fastened to the animal’s ear after capturing and releasing him. Aujero claims legal rights to the ‘Meatball’ name.

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Sanctuary staff began mailing the books to online buyers in recent weeks, said Bobbi Brink, owner of Lions, Tigers & Bears, where Meatball loves to play tetherball and eat salmon.

Brink said the decision to rename the bear Meatball 210 was prompted by a desire to distinguish which animals in the sanctuary were originally in the wild.

“It helps the kids to know which animals came out of the wild and why. What we need to do is keep wild animals wild,” she said, adding that Conrad the mountain lion has been renamed Conrad 502 and another bear named Liberty has been renamed Liberty 101.

When Brink’s friend Jason Weeding, the author of the book, sat down to craft the story, he reviewed several news accounts of Meatball’s visits to Glendale and focused on educating children about how humans should act to keep both themselves and bears safe. The book also shows off the bear’s personality.

“He’s a pretty funny bear,” Brink said. “He likes to play. He’s really active.”

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