Two Can Too Toucan, or Can They? Kellogs v. MAI

Posted by | August 24, 2011 | Disputes, General | No Comments

I’ve had a fun and engaging debate in the comments section of my last post with The Trademark TrollDick Troll, who most certainly is the only IP troll of any kind that I’ll ever like.  Today Dick wrote about Kellogg’s trademark claim against the Maya Archeology Institute (MAI), about which MAI issued a press release this past Sunday.

MAI is a project of the World Free Press Institute (WFPI), which is a non-profit organization whose mission is to support free speech worldwide.  MAI’s mission focuses on the protecting the land and cultural heritage of northern Guatemala under five pillars: education; conservation; research; preservation and community engagement.  Kellogg’s sells consumer packaged goods.  Not only do the two organizations appear to have no overlapping products or services, the Toucans don’t look anything alike:

Kellogg's touts toucan trademark confusionIt’s a bummer that MAI has not released Kellogg’s C&D letter so that we can see exactly what claims Kellogg made and what facts it has to support those claims (yeah, right).  Without that, we are left to mere speculation.

My theory?  This is our first exposure to a Big Cereal plot to rule through a puppet toucan.  Hear me out.

In the U.S. we have Big Corporations (now known as people, thanks to the US Supreme Court), Big Banks, and some would say Big Government.  It only makes sense that a company like Kellogg’s would want its share of the pie too.  After all, it surely has a sugar addiction having had Fruit Loops (first ingredient, sugar) for breakfast every morning since the 1960s.  The U.S. is already over saturated (pun intended) in corporate conquistadors, so why not journey down south to, say, Guatemala, for the first Big Cereal takeover.  Far-fetched, you say?  No matter what Kellogg’s claims are, I cannot fathom that they are any less far-fetched than my theory.  I mean, really.  What would possibly justify this under trademark law or good business practices (note to Kellogg: people don’t like bullies!).

MAI and WFPI are working to get the word out about Kellogg’s actions (though, again, I wish they would get more words out, specifically those written by Kellogg’s counsel).  Meanwhile, as with any trademark bullying case about which we learn, we can “vote with our dollars.”

The best way to tell a company that you don’t like what it’s doing is to stop (or don’t start) buying its goods/services and send it a note telling it why.  Consumerism can be powerful, especially when you’re willing to be an activist consumer.



About Lara

Lara Pearson is a trademark attorney with Exemplar, where she also serves as the firm's Sustainability Steward. Lara's legal practice focuses on trademark and copyright law, including: intellectual property audits; trademark search & clearance; trademark and copyright registration & maintenance; intellectual property transfers; transactional work; and dispute resolution, including litigation when necessary. Lara primarily represents other social enterprises -- those leveraging their businesses and brands as catalysts for positive social and environmental change. Such businesses engage in CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) to have a positive "triple bottom line" of people, planet and profit. As Exemplar's Sustainability Steward, Lara works with others in her law firm to measure and reduce the firm's carbon emissions and encourage engagement in social responsibility initiatives, including pro bono legal work and volunteering. Lara is a proud member of the Social Venture Network. Brand Geek is a member of 1% for the Planet and a Certified B Corporation, whose Incline Village office is certified under the regional Keep the Sierra Green program. Exemplar Companies is the most innovative professional services firm in the New Economy. Our unique, diversified expertise spans the disciplines of corporate law, business advisory, and capital/investment banking to better meet the needs of our high-potential customers. We have assembled a comprehensive suite of service to meet the complex issues facing companies in today’s challenging business environment. Our unique, holistic approach ensures the growth and success – and greatly increases the competitive advantage - of our customers. The Exemplar team is comprised of knowledgeable, highly skilled experts in a wide range of industries and disciplines. They work closely with our customers to provide trusted advice, incomparable support, expert guidance and the ultimate competitive advantage as they accelerate their businesses and position themselves to transform industries.

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