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Hanson Bridgett Helps a Non-Profit Take Flight (November 15, 2011) 

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. Formed in 2010, 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. Ms. Mott responded to the opposition and began discussions with Kellogg to resolve the trademark matter and other cultural issues that arose out of the opposition.

Hanson Bridgett’s argument that you can’t trademark a bird won the day. But the story has an even sweeter ending. 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. To Kellogg’s further credit, it listened to MAI’s concerns about culturally insensitive games and television advertisements, which were taken off the air.

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’s important contribution to the Maya Archaeology Initiative will help us achieve our goal of building a Maya Cultural Center in Peten, the cradle of Maya history, so children, families and visitors can learn about the Maya and their rich heritage,” said MAI President Dr. Francisco Estrada-Belli. “We are grateful to Kellogg for joining us in these efforts.”

“We are pleased to support the MAI in its mission to protect and extend the rich history and culture of Mayan people,” said Tim Knowlton, Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility, Kellogg Company. “The Cultural Center promises to be a source of inspiration, pride and learning throughout the region.”

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.

A great result for all involved!

Hanson Bridgett is a law firm with more than 150 attorneys in offices in San Francisco, Sacramento, the North Bay, Silicon Valley and the East Bay. Serving clients since 1958, we are well known in Northern California and have earned a national reputation in many of our practice areas.

Our diverse client list includes large national and global companies as well as many governmental entities, regional businesses and individuals. While we keep true to our California roots, our work increasingly takes us across state and national borders.

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Michelle Klopp
Hanson Bridgett LLP
425 Market Street, 26th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94105

415-995-5075 Direct Phone
415-541-9366 Fax

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