Kellogg Settles Toucan Trademark Dispute With Mayan Archaeology Group

from the snatching-graceful-defeat-from-the-jaws-of-thuggish-victory dept

Boilersrock sends in the news that a settlement has been reached between Kellogg (maker of fine breakfast products) and the Mayan Archaeology Initiative (entirely unrelated to breakfast products). As you may recall (and this link will certainly help), Kellogg took issue with MAI’s use of a toucan in its logo, despite the fact that MAI’s toucan resembled an actual toucan rather than an overly animated cereal pusher. Kellogg also laid claim to Mayan imagery, apparently based on the fact that its website included a horribly insensitive witch doctor caricature.

Fast-forward a few months and it appears that, against all odds, cooler heads and common sense have prevailed. Kellogg has dropped the claim against MAI and has made some serious strides towards rehabilitating its image:

Battle Creek-based Kellogg Co. is satisfied that its trademarked Toucan Sam character isn’t in danger, and the San Ramon, Calif.-based Maya Archaeology Initiative can keep using its own toucan logo. What’s more, Kellogg is making a $100,000 contribution to cover a major part of the cost of building the MAI’s long-planned Maya cultural center in Petén, a district in Guatemala, said MAI spokesperson Sam Haswell.

Not bad for a couple of months of talks that began with the MAI staring down the barrel of a multinational corporation’s nastygram. Not only will MAI receive $100,000 but Kellogg has made some strides to clean up its online image as well, beginning with the removal of the offending witch doctor and its accompanying imagery from its website:

In early September, Fox News Latino reported that the early exchanges between MAI and Kellogg had prompted the company to rethink how Mayan culture was portrayed in a Froot Loops-related online adventure game, which subsequently was removed from Kellogg’s website, according to

“MAI raised some points about the cultural sensitivity of one of our marketing executions that we hadn’t considered,” Fox News Latino quoted Charles as saying. “As a company long committed to diversity and inclusion and responsible marketing, Kellogg takes this concern very seriously.”

It appears that Kellogg realized what kind of a PR nightmare it had just unleashed by issuing the cease-and-desist as its efforts didn’t end with $100K and some website scrubbing:

“After conversations with MAI to better understand how they intend to use this design, we worked with them to identify an approach to revise their trademark application that will enable them to continue using their logo for their not-for-profit fundraising efforts,” said Kris Charles, Kellogg’s vice president for global communications and philanthropy, in an email to the Battle Creek Enquirer.

Kellogg also will help promote the MAI’s work — and website — on Froot Loops cereal boxes next year, in presentations that also will feature Mayan accomplishments.

While Kellogg is obviously regreting its decision to pursue a claim against a non-profit organization, it looks like being on the receiving end of a C & D just might be one of the best things that has happened to the Mayan Archaeology Initiative.

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Companies: kellogg, mai

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Comments on “Kellogg Settles Toucan Trademark Dispute With Mayan Archaeology Group”

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Marcel de Jong (profile) says:

"Fine" breakfast product

I wouldn’t say Kellog is known for their fine breakfast products. Unless you don’t mind eating metal.

Kellog’s Special K product is slightly magnetic. Their idea of iron additives, is actual metal iron and not the mineral iron.

You could try this: put a flake of Special K in a bowl of water, and get your trusty handy magnet, and try to attract the flake.

Disclaimer, this won’t work in Denmark, where Special K is sold without additives.

Anshar (profile) says:


I disagree.
I think a pat on the back is definitely in order here. Not many people (let alone large, multinational corporations) are willing to stand down when they’re wrong. Kellogg did just that and even took it further than was strictly necessary. Not only did they drop the issue they’re actually contributing to MAI’s project.

I also think a pat on the back is in order for MAI. They were in the right and stood their ground against what must have seemed like overwhelming odds.

Kudos all around.

Informed Coward says:

"Fine" breakfast product

Umm… You do realize that “iron additives” being metal and not some mineral salt variety has very little effect on how well it is absorbed into the body dont you?

The human body can actually handle iron without trouble – you can even absorb iron from eating things such as nails (not that that is safe or healthy). Stop bitching.

TheBigH (profile) says:

ever think

It’s possible, but unlikely. Why spend so much time and effort? They would have had to set up the racist witch doctor in advance, implying they’d planned this for quite a while, and the bogus C & D demand was risky. What if the institute had folded? All that effort, time and risk just to make themselves look good? Seems awfully elaborate for something so petty. Are these people Scooby Doo villains?

They could have just given the MAI a bunch of money in the first place.

ken (profile) says:

Without the Safe Harbors provision the DMCA would have effectively killed off the Internet. There could not have been blogs, Youtube, Facebook, User Forums, or any site that allowed user generated content. Today’s Internet would resemble cable TV where users could only receive information. It is exactly what the RIAA and MPAA would love to see. The problem is it is an Internet few would want and therefore the infrastructure never would have been built the way it is today.

Anonymous Coward says:

Everyone seems to assume Kellogg’s is an atomic unit that changed “its” mind here. It seems more likely that someone’s job description includes “defend trademarks” (perhaps involving metrics like number of C&Ds sent and undertakings to sin no more received), and only after the C&D got press did someone outside legal find out.

Good for whoever directed the course change; many companies would circle the wagons instead of admitting and trying to correct the error.

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