Friday, 8 January 2010

Mexico: Starbucks may pay for the use of pre-Columbian royalty images

The Mexican government said that it has notified the company Starbucks Corp. for the potential violation of Intellectual Property Rights.

The Mexican Archeological Agency explains that Starbucks is using, in its cups and jars, images of the Aztec calendar and Aztec ruins of Teotihuacan.

Starbucks said in a statement that he regretted "any misunderstanding this may have caused" and said "we are willing to pay the amount for the use of these images." Neither the company nor the government has specified the amount to be paid.

Starbucks said it is working with Mexico to resolve the matter "as soon as possible" and that it temporarily withdrew the cups from their shelves until the matter is resolved.

More information here, here and here.


Arturo said...

This is not a copyright or intellectual property infringement case actually. In Mexico, the federal government is entitled to collect a duty for the reproduction, for commercial purposes, of any prehispanic work (a mask, a stone figure or a pyramid) located in Mexico, no matter if the work is already in the public domain. There are similar regulations for "Historic Monuments", such as the Independence Monument or "Angel" in Mexico City, and for the works of certain auhtors such as Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.

Arturo said...

By the way, Teotihuacan is not an Aztec site. It was built by a different earlier culture at least 500 years before the Aztecs arrived to Central Mexico.

Patricia Covarrubia said...

Thanks Arturo for the clarification. You are right, Teotihuacan history and origin is still of debate but is clear that it was before the Aztec. However, it is my understanding that while the original name of the city is unknown, the name Teotihuacan was given by the Aztec ( their Nahuatl language). Perhaps the newspaper confusion is here.
The point that you mention regarding IPRs, I am afraid is open for debate. I do agree that they are not IP purely. IPRs do expire (except trade secrets, and yet depending on clauses). You mention the case of Mexican authors that are still protected and I would like to mention a case here in the UK which was Peter Pan.
My point is that there are situations in which we can see IP extensions, or simple situations where a right is born by an IPR. Another point is the issue of public domain. The IP rights that are heavily examined by this issue are Patent and trade secret. In copyright many things are in public domain, ie art, photos, books, and yet they can be infringed.

I therefore so agree with you that the correct info should be something like 'the violation has not been directly to the IP Act or legislation but to the Law promulgated to protect the 'history monuments'.