Posted by: Johan Normark | January 9, 2010

Starbucks and the illegal use of Prehispanic images

While travelling around in the world there are some American companies that you usually run into: McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Dunkin Donuts, etc. If you are in an area which only serves food that is not quite your taste these companies can serve a purpose. One of these companies, particularly in areas lacking drinkable coffee, is Starbucks.

On Mexique Ancien I came across a link to Huffington Post that states that Starbucks Corp. illellagy has used Prehispanic images on their coffee mugs. The Mexican government hold the intellectual property rights of these images. The mugs have apparently been removed until the controversy has been resolved. INAH will decide next week if Starbucks should pay any fees. The images used was the Pyramid of the Moon at Teotihuacan and the Aztec Calendar Stone (of course). Since the 2012ers continue to use this calendar stone in their publications, etc. cannot INAH make them pay huge fees for distorting the intellectual property of Mexico?

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Responses

  1. Frankly, I find it utterly ridiculous and absurd for anyone, even (or perhaps especially) a modern nation state, to claim “intellectual property” over any ancient site or artifact. If this idea had any real intellectual merit then Greece should be able to sue the majority of countries on Earth for their use of Classical architecture on government buildings/museums etc. I’m not a coffee drinker and no love is lost between Starbucks and myself but to think that the Mexican government, most of whose higher ups are descendants of either the conquistadors or recent immigrants, are wanting money for “intellectual property rights” on ancient archaeological sites that are so disconnected in time and culture that we aren’t even sure what language the occupants spoke … that for me is the height of absurdity. I think we need a few more human sacrifices, and I suggest the lawyers should be on the top of that list.

  2. I agree with you and Mexico’s attitude here is still as colonizers. In this case I am primarily targeting 2012ers through sarchasm (or whatever I should call it). It was not intended as a support of INAH’s policy. The same goes for the Kellogg issue. Kellogg and INAH apparently share similar mindsets here. I do not really care if someone uses Maya imagery in their commercials (Coca Cola has in the past) or in music videos (Jennifer Lopez is the most recent one). I do not think it is exploitation of cultures or that anyone has intellectual property of these things (as a Swede I do not get upset when hockey supporters use an inaccurate “viking helmet” with horns). But it goes both ways. Kellogg’s demand is just as ridiculous as INAH’s demand.

    Btw, my wife has begun to “collect” Starbucks cups with such logo (China, Singapore, Malaysia, and Bali so far)…

  3. On every US dollar bill is a pyramid. So the American government should pay money to Mexico, or Egypt, or China, or Romania, or the Free Masons?

  4. Johan, I definitely appreciate your sarcasm and point about Starbucks. A pox on their houses, as well as those of Kellogg and the Mexican government, to name just a few. I have become much more sensitive lately to how cultural sensitivity is ruining culture. 😉

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