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Nonprofit sued by Kelloggs over toucan logo

8:54 AM, Aug 23, 2011   |    comments
  • Logo of Maya Archaelogy Initiative
  • Toucan Sam - from the Battle Creek Equirer
    
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Toucan Sam - from Battle Creek Enquirer

(BATTLE CREEK ENQUIRER) - Kellogg Co. has its feathers ruffled over a bird perched in the logo of a nonprofit group from California.

The company wants the San Ramon, Calif.-based Maya Archaeology Initiative to quit using a toucan in ITS logo, claiming the image infringes on Kellogg's Toucan Sam character and games, the group said in a press release issued Monday.

In the statement, Sarah D. Mott, legal counsel for the nonprofit, denied any infringement exists, saying the trademarks don't resemble each other and the two entities are not in competition.

"MAI's trademark is made up of iconic images," she said, according to Bloomberg. "Its toucan is based upon a realistic toucan endemic to Mesoamerica. Kellogg provides sugary cereal and entertainment through Toucan Sam, his cousins and a make-believe world that pretends to reflect something real."

"It is our policy not to comment on pending litigation," Kellogg Co. spokesperson Kris Charles stated in an email to the Battle Creek Enquirer on Monday. The status of that litigation remained unclear, however.

Toucan Sam is a cartoon character Kellogg introduced in 1963 to promote its Froot Loops breakfast cereal. The long-established character's multicolored beak reflects the multiple hues of the "O's" in the product.

The nonprofit project was established in early 2010 to defend indigenous Maya culture and the Guatemalan biosphere. The toucan in its logo is a somewhat more realistic bird, shown in front of a Maya pyramid. The image appears on T-shirts, refrigerator magnets, coffee mugs and baseball hats given as premiums to the group's donors, Bloomberg News reported. The image also appears at the top of the nonprofit's website at www.mayaarchaeology.org.

"The goal of the initiative is to help both indigenous Maya culture and the children who share that heritage," initiative spokesperson Sam Haswell told the Enquirer on Monday. "It's a small NGO (nongovernmental organization) doing good in the world. Our logo has absolutely nothing to do with Kellogg. So I just think it's beyond the pale for Kellogg to say it has the sole trademark on all images of toucans."

"This is a bit like the Washington Redskins claiming trademark infringement against the National Congress of American Indians," Dr. Francisco Estrada-Belli, president of the initiative and a globally recognized expert on Maya archaeology and culture, was quoted as saying in the nonprofit's press release.

 The initiative, a project of the California-based World Free Press Institute, focuses on foster education for Maya children, protecting antiquities and defending biodiversity in the Guatemalan rainforest, according to Bloomberg.

Battle Creek Enquirer

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