Hanson Bridgett helps a non-profit take flight. What started out as a legal battle over trademark rights has turned into the beginning of a dream come true, thanks in large part to Hanson Bridgett’s pro bono work. Last summer, Hanson Bridgett attorney, Sarah Mott agreed to defend the Maya Archeology Initiative(“MAI”), a non-profit organization formed by Guatemalan archaeologist Francisco Estrada-Belli, in a legal dispute over its logo. MAI’s three-fold mission is to provide cultural and educational opportunities for Mayan children, protect Mayan artifacts and temples, and preserve the biodiversity of one of the world’s last pristine rainforests. The organization’s trademark was opposed by the Kellogg Food Company, which claimed that the MAI logo featuring a toucan image diluted the value of Froot Loop’s mascot Toucan Sam because the two could be confused.
Hanson Bridgett’s argument that you can’t trademark a bird won the day. Even better, within a month, Kellogg not only agreed to allow MAI to proceed with its original logo, it also became a strong supporter of MAI’s work and goals. Ms. Mott worked with MAI board members and Kellogg executives to continue a discussion about the Mayan culture and the difficulties faced by Mayan children in Guatemala. This dialogue, which was separate from the legal dispute, resulted in Kellogg pledging a $100,000 contribution to help launch one of MAI’s priority projects, a cultural center in a rural area near the eastern border with Belize. Kellogg has also pledged to provide space on the back of one million Froot Loops cereal boxes next year to help educate American children and their parents about the Maya culture and to provide a link to MAI’s website.