Kellogg's Threatens Non-Profit Over Toucan Logo; Cereal Maker Insists is Toucan Sam Rip-Off

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To the right is Toucan Sam, the brightly-plumaged mascot of Kellogg's Froot Loops.

After the jump, the logo of the Maya Archaeology Initiative, a non-profit organization intended to preserve Maya ruins in northern Guatemala.


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The Maya Archaeology Initiative is a San Francisco-based non-profit whose goals are to have several sites declared protected and to preserve the Maya ruins of northern Guatemala for future generations of Guatemalans. Notice that they do not sell cereal, toucan meat, or really any food at all. They do sell apparel with their logo, which is apparently the bone of contention; Kellogg's claims to own the toucan in all images and logos.

Really?

Even colorblind people couldn't mix up these two toucans (fourcans?). Kellogg's ugly toucan doesn't remotely resemble a real toucan; the MAI's does.

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Flickr user 37degrees

See?

Yet some legal eagle toucan from Kellogg's has sent one of those tedious letters that only corporate attorneys could love to the MAI, threatening to sue them if they don't make several concessions. For example, MAI can never give its toucan a name and it must never be anthropomorphized. (That doesn't mean we can't--the best we came up with was Abogado Baboso, so leave your suggestions in the comments.)

Kellogg's claims that they use Maya imagery in their advertising, pointing to a Froot Loops adventure game on their website--now taken down, oddly enough--that contains pyramids.

As with so many of these stupid trademark lawsuits, this one seems to have been born from the rule that trademarks not vigorously defended run the risk of becoming generic terms. Of course, it could also be that Kellogg's is just interested in a bunch of free publicity in mainstream and, uh, non-mainstream (hi there, gentle readers!) media in order to get the misspelled sugar bombs back into America's consciousness, where they haven't tarried since about 1995.

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