Narcoculture as a business: drug lords want to become trademarks
Narcoculture defines the way of life and ideas of drug traffickers - Photo: Taken from El Chapo Guzmán's Facebook account

Narcoculture as a business: drug lords want to become trademarks

Susana Zavala
Mexico City
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In recent years, there has been a trend to use drug lords' names and images in products that range from alcoholic drinks and religious accessories to clothing and jewelry

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Besides having in common being former leaders of organized crime groups with international reach, drug traffickers Rafael Caro Quintero, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo “Don Neto,” Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, and Colombian Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria share something else.

They are figures who thanks to their criminal activities have registered their names, nicknames, faces, signatures, and even their fingerprints as trademarks on Mexico’s Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI).

Individuals have also tried to do the procedure to obtain the exclusivity rights of the word “narcos,” the name of the crime groups “Los Zetas,” nicknames like “The Lord of the Skies,” “The Queen of the Pacific,” and “The Queen of the South;” fiction characters like Teresa Mendoza, the Mexican, and even Jesús Malverde’s image and name, who is known as the saint patron of drug traffickers, so as to use them as denominations and logos of products that range from alcoholic drinks, religious accessories, and films to clothing and jewelry.

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In the last decade, the registry of names and other particular features of drug lords has been a trend since their activities in the crime world have made them stand out as the main characters of series, films, and telenovelas, as well as their images being an inspiration for fashion.

Nevertheless, not all crime leaders have been successful in claiming rights in their names as well as those who pretend to obtain exclusivity of words, characters, and nicknames related to the phenomenon of narcoculture, since the IMPI has rejected most of these requests due to legal impediments established in the laws of Industrial Property and copyright.

The legal arguments referred by the institute to refuse to register the brands say that the requested names and references are linked to characters that undermine morality and public order.

Likewise, the IMPI says that the procedure wants to register proper names or pseudonyms by third persons without accrediting the consent of the true owners through a power of attorney.

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Among the few leaders of crime groups who have obtained the registry are Ernesto Carrillo Fonseca, known as “Don Neto,” who is the founder of the extinct Guadalajara Cartel in the decade of 1980. In 2009, he registered his name to use it as a brand for alcoholic beverages to which the institute found no impediment and granted the concession.

Nevertheless, in 2011, the wife and children of Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria, of Colombian nationality, using their new identities with the last name Marroquín Santos, were denied the procedure that pretended to protect the name, signature, and fingerprints of the late drug lord.

The argument was blunt: the denomination made reference to the leader of the Medellín Cartel killed in 1993 by Colombian authorities, so the known criminal activity of the drug lord undermined morality and public order, according to Mexican laws.

On the other hand, Rafael Caro Quintero’s couple, Diana Espinoza Aguilar, also registered his name and got her request rejected since she did not have the power to be granted the name of the drug lord; nonetheless, Caro Quintero issued a power of attorney to grant her the rights.

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The procedure was also rejected because the name made reference “to one of the most powerful drug traffickers of the 1980s and the denomination had ideologic content that undermined morality and good manners,” according to the IMPI’s statement. The follow-up of the procedure was unconcluded in September 2018 because payment for the rights was pending.

One of the most recent cases is that of Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo in November 2019, but the institute has yet to issue a statement and the resolution on the concession.

About El Chapo’s brand, the registry was granted to two persons: the drug lord’s daughter Alejandrina Gisselle Guzmán Salazar, and his wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro; nevertheless, the name and image were registered in different modalities.

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In 2011, Alejandrina Gisselle Guzmán tried to undergo the procedure with the names “El Chapo Guzmán” and “Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán,” but the IMPI informed of the negative since there were legal impediments for the registry.

However, last April 2019, the drug lord’s daughter launched a clothing line inspired by her father’s name and image. Some procedures are still in dispute.

Meanwhile, the registries made by Emma Coronel Aispuro in 2014 and 2015 to obtain the rights of “Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera, El Chapo Guzmán,” through a writ of amparo have already been concluded in a definitive negative.

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