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Froot Loops Maker Won't Stand For Mayan Group's Use of Toucan Logo

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The world's biggest cereal maker is locked in a legal battle with a nonprofit that protects Mayan culture, and Kellogg says Toucan Sam's integrity is at stake.

A lawyer for Kellogg sent the California-based Maya Archaeology Initiative a letter last month objecting to the group's application to trademark its logo, which features a toucan. Kellogg argues consumers could confuse it with the feathered mascot that graces its Froot Loops cereal.

Really -- is Kellogg worried about competition in the cereal aisle from a group focused on conserving rainforests and promoting education on Mayan history in Guatemala?

In a peeved-sounding press release, the group says its logo -- a more realistic-looking toucan, which is native to Mesoamerica and central to Mayan mythology, in front of a Mayan pyramid -- doesn't look anything like the cartoonish Toucan Sam.

Moreover, the nonprofit takes exception to Kellogg's claim that consumers associate toucans in Mayan settings with its brand. They checked the Froot Loops website and found a game involving what the group characterizes as a generic temple, and a villainous "witch doctor" character who steals from kids. If this is supposed to represent Mayans, the group says, Kellogg could use some work in the cultural sensitivity department.

“This is a bit like the Washington Redskins claiming trademark infringement against the National Congress of American Indians,” says Dr. Francisco Estrada-Belli, head of the Maya Archaeology Initiative.

For the record, this is what Toucan Sam looks like on a cereal box:

Here's the Maya Archaeology Initiative's logo:

And this is an actual keel-billed toucan:

You be the judge.

Also see: Name Games: 10 Famous Battles Over Corporate Trademarks
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