Drug cartels are notorious for murder and extortion, but the family of the late drug lord Pablo Escobar has unleashed the scariest weapon of all–trademark litigation.
Escobar, Inc. has a longstanding grudge against the Netflix series Narcos, which dramatizes the late drug lord’s life. In a creative and brazen move, Escobar filed trademark registrations for the marks NARCOS and CARTEL WARS, and has threatened the producers, Narco Productions, LLC (“NPL”) with litigation if they won’t play ball. Escobar’s brother, Roberto De Jesus Escobar Gaviria, has been quoted to say he will “close their little show” if Netflix doesn’t cough up $1 billion to settle the infringement claims.
In a letter from its counsel, NPL responded that the Escobar claims are fraudulent. They assert that the specimens of use in commerce submitted in support of the Escobar trademark application were in fact taken from or copies of Netflix’s own advertising for its video game Narcos: Cartel Wars. Another red flag noted by NPL counsel was that Escobar claimed to have used the mark since 1986 in “operating a website” and “game services provided online from a computer network.” This despite that fact that the consumer internet did not exist in 1986, and was certainly incapable of streaming video games. There is also a question whether NARCOS is registrable at all, since the term is purely descriptive of anyone involved in drug cartels.
Perhaps coincidentally, the show Narcos was also in the news when its location scout was murdered in rural Mexico on September 11. Asked whether anyone at Escobar, Inc. had knowledge of the circumstances, the company’s president responded only “no comment.” Gaviria has been quoted, however, challenging the right of any production to film in Colombia regarding the Medellin cartel without authorization from Escobar, Inc., and recommending that Netflix hire hitmen to provide security to its crew.