Escobar waves white flag on ‘Narcos’ trade mark dispute

Written by Briffa | January 24, 2018

Trade Marks

Infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar’s is no longer with us. His brother Roberto Escobar, however, is alive and kicking and has been giving the runaround to the producers of “Narcos” (the popular Netflix drama and video game based on Pablo Escobar’s escapades).

Roberto Escobar has been vocal about his dislike of the Netflix drama, claiming that it is full of “mistakes, lies and inaccuracies from the real story”.

In August 2016, Escobar Inc., Roberto Escobar’s company, filed several trade mark applications in the United States for both NARCOS and CARTEL WARS. It then proceeded to claim infringement of alleged long standing common law trade mark rights in the words NARCOS and CARTEL WARS, as well as infringement of the pending applications. The eye-watering sum of $1billion was demanded from the show’s producers for settlement of the claim.

The show’s producers were having none of it – the drama and the spin off video game both pre-date the registered applications and the claim that Escobar had any kind of common law rights to the words NARCOS and CARTEL WARS was rejected by them. A cease and desist letter was sent to Escobar Inc. on the basis that the trade mark applications were fraudulent.

It seems as though the show’s producers have come out triumphant as all trade mark filings have been abandoned. Any settlement terms have not been disclosed but we doubt that they coughed up $1billion for it.

In order to claim common law rights, Escobar Inc. would need to show that its target customer base associated those words with Escobar Inc. as a source of the goods they consume. We are sure that one of the reasons they were not able to show this is that Escobar claimed that it had been using NARCOS as an online brand since 1986, despite the fact that the internet was not widely in use until the 90s.

Briffa Comment

This serves as a reminder that it is always sensible to get your trade mark applications filed early. The more successful and well-known a brand becomes, the more people will, rightly or wrongly, want a slice of your earnings. Had the producers filed applications with the USPTO, Escobar Inc. would have blocked from making its own application and the show’s producers may have saved themselves a headache.

For advice on protection your TV show’s brand or general brand and trade mark advice, contact Briffa for a free 30 minute consultation.

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