Kellogg Suing Nonprofit Over Toucan Logo

Posted by Mark J. Miller on August 24, 2011 12:03 PM

It looks like the Kellogg Co. wants to corner the market on toucan logos. A California nonprofit has a toucan in its logo and the cereal maker is so worried that it might look too much like Toucan Sam from Froot Loops and related games that it is taking legal action.

The group, the Maya Archeology Initiative, begs to differ, of course. "MAI's trademark is made up of iconic images," said Sarah D. Mott, legal counsel for the nonprofit, according to the Battle Creek Enquirer. "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."

Kellogg, of course, isn’t talking about pending litigation.

Toucan Sam has been around since 1963. The MAI was founded in 2010 “to defend indigenous Maya culture and the Guatemalan biosphere,” according to the Enquirer, and its toucan is “shown in front of a Maya pyramid on T-shirts, refrigerator magnets, coffee mugs and baseball hats given as premiums to the group's donors.”

Sam Haswell, the initiative’s spokesperson, seemed surprised that Kellogg would be upset with the nonprofit’s use of a toucan: "The goal of the initiative is to help both indigenous Maya culture and the children who share that heritage," he said. “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.”

Or as Dr. Francisco Estrada-Belli, the president of the initiative, put it, “This is a bit like the Washington Redskins claiming trademark infringement against the National Congress of American Indians."


John C. Sherwood United States says:

It would be good media manners to credit the Battle Creek (MI) Enquirer, where BrandChannel lifted the quote from Mr. Haswell (I was the interviewer). See our original story at http://tinyurl.com/3zuob76

August 24, 2011 04:11 PM #

John C. Sherwood United States says:

Forgive my hasty past. I see that you *did* credit us. Mea culpa! And thank you ...

August 24, 2011 04:12 PM #

Peter Feld United States says:

No problem, you did a great story!

August 24, 2011 04:56 PM #

Dan T. United States says:

Those wonderful loops of fruit definitely did not enter my mind when I saw MAI's logo.

August 24, 2011 10:18 PM #

Alina Wheeler United States says:

There is no resemblance whatsoever between the Maya Archeology Initiative logo and Toucan Sam. If I were an ornithologist, I would say that they don't even look like the same species. Look at the bill and the eyes. Those lawyers have been looking at too many briefs. I am the author of a book called Designing Brand Identity, and I would be happy to make a more formal statement on behalf of MAI.I agree with Dr. Estrada Bell.

August 25, 2011 08:01 AM #

Daniel Green United States says:

I agree with Ms. Wheeler. "Toucan Sam" looks more like "Opus the Penguin" than the Maya Archaeology Initiative's bird.

August 25, 2011 08:22 AM #

john b Australia says:

Isn't prior art a defence in trademark cases? If it is, then Guinness have got enough <a href="www.google.com.au/search art</a> to get the whole thing laughed out of court, surely...

August 25, 2011 12:25 PM #

Greg Z United States says:

Agree with John B. If Kellogg's has a leg to stand on vs. some non-profit, then maybe our friends at Guinness should sue too? No, I bet they don't take themselves so seriously at Guinness that they would attempt to sue a non-profit...

August 25, 2011 05:10 PM #

AbigailM France says:

Attention Kellogg's Cornflakes! The following may be infringing your rights : Cockspur Rum, Carolina Chanticleers, Sydney Roosters, Rooster's Cycles, Rooster Records, Red Rooster Guitars, Red Rooster Design, Red Rooster Information Technology, Red Rooster Fabrics, Little Red Rooster, Black Rooster Internet, Black Rooster Gallery, Blue Rooster Bagels, Blue Rooster Productions, Burning Rooster Productions, Spicey Rooster BBQ Company, Rooster's Bar & Grill, Rooster Australia, rooster36.com, Big Rooster, Rooster Run Golf Club, Crozet Arts & Crafts Festival and The Urban Farm School in Vancouver...

August 27, 2011 03:21 AM #

Irena United States says:

Come on.  Really?

August 27, 2011 11:54 AM #

Larry Lieberman United States says:


August 28, 2011 10:10 AM #

Matt Australia says:

More corporate bullying tactics... now the NGO has to spend money, marked for good causes, on legal crap... with the lawyers the only winners.  MAI, go hard and reap the benefits of the negative publicity you can create about Kellogg... they may just have a change of heart and give you a big donation Smile

August 29, 2011 03:01 AM #

Brandwoman Canada says:

Absolutely agree with many of you this is corporate bullying.  I've worked for a cereal company and a non-profit.  I also have plain common sense.  A toucan is iconic and not intellectual property.

You could say Snap, Crackle and Pop look at a lot like the Keebler Elves too.  

Best PR for Toucan same would be a nice big sponsorship.

August 29, 2011 12:52 PM #

Bonnie United States says:

Kellogg should focus their attention on making their advertising tell the truth before they pick on someone who has a legitimate claim to using a toucan on their logo!
How about putting REAL blueberries in your cereal rather than bits of produced blueberries and them maybe you would have time to look at toucans!!

August 30, 2011 12:56 PM #

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