Toucan play that game: Kellogg backtracks in image dispute with Mayan group

By Oliver Nieburg

- Last updated on GMT

MAI's toucan (pictured top) has avoided trademark threat from Toucan Sam (pictured below)
MAI's toucan (pictured top) has avoided trademark threat from Toucan Sam (pictured below)
Kellogg Company has dropped threats of legal action against a Mayan cultural heritage group that uses a Toucan as its logo.

The cereal giant had said that The Maya Archaeology Initiative’s (MAI) use of the Toucan infringed image rights for its own Toucan Sam character present on Froot Loop​ cereals.

In August this year, MAI said the breakfast cereal giant had initiated legal action after the cultural defence group applied for a trademark for its toucan logo. It also said that Kellogg had tried to prevent the group’s use of “Mayan” imagery that Kellogg said was present on Froot Loop ​boxes.

Now, Kellogg said it was contributing $100,000 (€74,100) to help MAI build a Maya centre in Guatemala and will feature and a link to MAI's website on Froot Loops​ boxes.

Racial stereotyping allegations

Francisco Estrada-Belli, president of MAI, previously described the threat of legal action as “a bit like the Washington Redskins claiming trademark infringement against the National Congress of American Indians.”

He added that Kellogg products were a staple of many Guatemalan households and he didn’t expect the large multinational to act in such a way.

“We expect a brand that is so familiar to children to play a role in supporting cultural and racial understanding around the world, rather than undercutting it by promoting demeaning racial stereotypes,”​ he said in August.

From lawsuit to donation

When Kellogg dropped the claim it said it would now feature major Mayan accomplishments on its Fruit Loops​ boxes.

Estrada-Belli said he was grateful that Kellogg was also contributing to the construction of the Maya Cultural Center in Peten, Guatemala.

Tim Knowlton, vice president for corporate social responsibility at Kellogg said: “We are pleased to support the MAI in its mission to protect and extend the rich history and culture of Mayan people.”

“The Cultural Center promises to be a source of inspiration, pride and learning throughout the region.”

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