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by Tim Cushing

Filed Under:
toucans, trademark

kellogg, mai

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.

Reader Comments

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  1. icon
    xenomancer (profile), 21 Nov 2011 @ 6:56am


    I'm rather stunned. Bravo Kellogg!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    fb39ca4, 21 Nov 2011 @ 6:58am

    And they lived happily ever after...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Poster, 21 Nov 2011 @ 7:05am

    2012: The Mayans strike back...against a cereal company.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    The Devil's Coachman, 21 Nov 2011 @ 7:10am

    Disney and Kellogg's lawyers fellate ponies

    But only the pretty ones!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    Marcel de Jong (profile), 21 Nov 2011 @ 7:12am

    "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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), 21 Nov 2011 @ 7:17am

    Re: D.S.D.D.

    It's one thing to stop digging the hole when you realize its your grave. I don't think that deserves a pat on the back.

    I'll be impressed if they actually fix the problem and start disciplining their overly aggressive lawyers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Liz (profile), 21 Nov 2011 @ 7:21am

    Re: "Fine" breakfast product

    That sounds like a youtube video that needs to be made.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    JaDe, 21 Nov 2011 @ 7:37am

    Re: "Fine" breakfast product

    We did that in my chemistry class in high school. It was cool and gross all at the same time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    Narcissus (profile), 21 Nov 2011 @ 7:41am

    I have their next target

    Perhaps they should try their luck with this Dutch Hotel chain:

    Blatant use of Tucans as well. Plus their name actually translates as Falcon so the only conceivable reason for them to use a Tucan is to leech of Kellog's trademark.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Pixelation, 21 Nov 2011 @ 7:46am

    I have to know

    Did they follow their nose on this one?

    Hey Kellogg, way to go!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    Anshar (profile), 21 Nov 2011 @ 8:02am

    Re: Re: D.S.D.D.

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Nov 2011 @ 8:25am

    Wow. Bravo Kellogg! Perhaps there is hope yet that we're not all greedy, power hungry robots. Seems there are some real human beings making human decisions in the upper echelons of Kellogg.

    I'm going to go buy me 2 boxes of Corn Flakes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Nov 2011 @ 9:08am


    All of your toucan are ours.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Nov 2011 @ 9:19am

    I was prepared to be pissed

    For once a case has a happy ending. Sit corporation, sit. Good boy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Informed Coward, 21 Nov 2011 @ 9:39am

    Re: "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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Bengie, 21 Nov 2011 @ 9:45am

    Re: D.S.D.D.

    Same here. People make mistakes, and they seem to be properly apologizing.

    I bet Kellogg has an opening on their legal team.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    hmm (profile), 21 Nov 2011 @ 10:48am

    ever think

    That maybe this was a cynical publicity exercise by Kellogs?

    They threaten the charity but never actually intend to follow through, but when they back down they look like the good guys......

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    New Mexico Mark, 21 Nov 2011 @ 11:06am

    Re: ever think

    You didn't take it far enough. Actually, MAI is a front organization created by Kellogg for this very purpose, so the "donation" stays in the family, so to speak.

    That, and you don't even mention how this all ties in with the Federal Reserve and Area 51. Sheesh... conspiracy theory kids these days...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. icon
    TheBigH (profile), 21 Nov 2011 @ 11:16am

    Re: 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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. icon
    ken (profile), 21 Nov 2011 @ 11:37am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Nov 2011 @ 12:51pm

    Re: "Fine" breakfast product

    "Mineral iron" and "metal iron" aren't even things. It's all the same iron.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    IronM@sk, 22 Nov 2011 @ 2:41am

    Re: ours

    Close grandpa. You've almost got the hang of this 'net stuff.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    IronM@sk, 22 Nov 2011 @ 3:17am

    Re: Re: "Fine" breakfast product

    It's just like I tell all the ladies. It's good for you. You need it. Get a little Iron into you :P

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    TEA-Time, 22 Nov 2011 @ 1:04pm

    And the better Toucan Sam (Haswell) prevailed!

    Nice recovery, Kellogg's, if you insist on screwing up first. Hopefully the MAI and Kellogg's can be mutually beneficial to each other in the future.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Nov 2011 @ 12:43pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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