Battle of the Chias


Like so many others this holiday season, I found myself racking my brain once again to come up with gift ideas for family and friends.

Then it dawned on me: Buy everyone a Chia Pet. It would be a sort of celebration of the banal, of finally not overlooking this item that arrives each holiday season, set up in freestanding displays in countless drugstore aisles. And who can forget those “Ch-ch-ch-chia!” commercials. There’s such a variety to choose from; Chia Guy, Chia Cat, even Chia Homer Simpson. And how much worse is the Chia Pet compared to the dancing Santa, Kung Fu hamster and Billy Bass, the singing fish?

For the first time in my life I actually lay my hands on a Chia Pet box and read the packaging. Chia Pets are handmade in Mexico. I immediately picture a serene Mexican village, filled with local artisans who, rather than sewing cheap apparel in sweatshops, are calmly sculpting Chia Pets and heads.

My interest piqued, I log onto to learn more about the Pets’ illustrious history. I discover that Chia Pets are only available during the holiday season, because, according to manufacturer Joseph Enterprises, “It takes an entire year to produce enough Pets and Heads for one holiday season.”

I can’t imagine anyone gazing at a Chia Pet and thinking, “Dinner!” Apparently I’m mistaken. The company states that although it does not condone eating the sprouts, Chia seeds are sold in health-food stores and can be harvested for salads and sandwiches.

I can see the allure of those sprouts for a cat wanting to munch, and here the chia exhibits its medicinal qualities: A little nibble can help Kitty upchuck any poisonous substances it has ingested. As someone who has owned cats all her life, many are the times I’ve seen my little darlings grazing on the lawn, only to hear them break into that telltale heaving noise later on, usually aiming for the rug. Well, better a clean-up than a $300 vet bill. I kid you not, I did get charged that approximate amount to learn the reason my cat was listless and not eating was due to a hairball lodged in ye olde intestinal tract. Maybe I should get a Chia Dog for my cat. Not that I’m one of those weird cat women who buy their cats presents, mind you.

ClicK MeBut then I learn something that gives me pause. Apparently not even a seemingly innocuous company like Joseph Enterprises is immune to inflicting lawsuits. The company is suing Neopets for copyright infringement. Et tu, Chia?

For you Neopet neophytes out there, Neopets are these sort of Pokemonlike characters that appeal to girls in what marketers like to call the "tween" stage, roughly eight to twelve years of age. Girls can spend hours on the site, creating such Neopets as the Aisha, the Grundl, the Usul and the Scorchio, earning Neopoints with which to feed the pets and buy them goodies, sending Neocards to each other and exploring Neopia’s cyberlocales.

Well, one of the Neopets is called the Chia. Nowhere do I see the term Chia Pet. On close inspection, it does have a shapeless face and body sporting an unruly mop of hair, but there the resemblance ends.

It would be really easy to turn this article into a diatribe against Chia Pets and its parent company, because, let’s face it, the products are just so hokey. However, Joseph Enterprise’s dispute involves something called “cybersquatting.” Neopets registered the following domain names: and Joseph claims this is copyright infringement.

Aha, cybersquatting. Funny how life works in circular ways. My experience with what I now know is officially termed cybersquatting happened when trying to come up with a domain name for this site. Many were taken, which was okay. What was annoying was how many names were taken by someone who was just sitting there, squatting, as it were, and doing nothing whatsoever with the domain except trying to get someone else to cough up the money for it. The worst offender I ran into was URL was for sale for $500 and was finally purchased by a company that designs conservatories, appropriately enough.

Squatting is a term that, for me, anyway, conjures up the image of someone moving into an abandoned building and improving it, albeit illegally. Apparently, cybersquatting is more like cyberscalping, in my opinion. In other words, snap up those (tickets, names) first and then sell them for a much higher price. Kind of like what ebay is turning into.

Back to the chias. Entering the names of various Neopets (,, etc.) merely brings you to the Neopets website, not to individual sites dedicated to the various species, which seems like a big waste.

In fact, this whole situation seems like much ado about nothing. Why doesn’t Joseph simply register the names "" and ""? Would a young girl looking for Neopets think to type in ""? Will scores of people interested in Chia Pets find themselves wandering, dazed and confused, in Neopia? Imagine if the two parties joined sides; there could Chia Chia Pets!

I wonder what those artisans in Mexico would have to say.

—Ela Schwartz




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