Kellogg Settles “Toucan Sam” Dispute With Archaeologists

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As I reported previously, Kellogg North America sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Maya Archaeology Initiative in July, complaining that the non-profit group was using a toucan on its logo that some might confuse with Kellogg's "Toucan Sam." MAI's lawyer responded that her client shouldn't have to either cease or desist, because of significant differences between the logos and also because it seemed doubtful that consumers would confuse a Central-American-archaeology group with the maker of Froot Loops. She also noted that Kellogg's claim it also used "Mayan imagery" was not that compelling, since the closest thing she could find on Kellogg's websites was an adventure game featuring a pyramid with Froot Loops on it and what appeared to be a "demeaning caricature" of a quasi-Mayan "witch doctor."

Joint Statement on Toucan Sam DisputeAt last report the two sides were trying to work things out, and it now appears that they have. The Battle Creek Enquirer reports that after several meetings over the past two months, the parties have reached a compromise: MAI will keep doing what it's doing, and Kellogg will give it $100,000.

MAI is also saying nice things about Kellogg, which a cynical person might say was part of the deal but which could also be just what both sides are saying it is, namely a realization by Kellogg that part of its marketing approach was not as culturally sensitive as it could have been (that would be the screeching Mayan witch doctor part), and a sincere attempt to address that. Kellogg removed the adventure game, and according to MAI, Kellogg "decided to come to the table and be part of the solution" in terms of helping preserve Mayan culture. The $100,000 will pay for a large part of a long-planned Maya cultural center in Guatemala, with classrooms and facilities to protect Mayan relics. "We are pleased to support the MAI in its mission," Kellogg said in a statement, and MAI said it was "grateful to Kellogg for joining us in these efforts."

The fate of whoever decided it would be a good idea to send a cease-and-desist letter to some archaeologists in the first place is not yet known.