Trademarking ‘El Chapo’ in Mexico

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Revelations that family members of notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán have trademarked his name for commercial use have sparked a scandal in Mexico and raised questions over who, if anyone, should benefit from a criminal’s “brand name.” 

In 2010 and 2011 Mexico’s Industrial Property Institute (IMPI by its Spanish initials) approved 24 trademark requests from El Chapo’s daughter Alejandrina Gisselle Guzmán Salazar and two women listed as his wives. The approvals granted the trio rights to produce products such as clothes, jewelry and toys bearing “El Chapo” and other variations of the criminal alias, Milenio has uncovered.  

The recently recaptured El Chapo is a leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, Mexico’s most powerful drug trafficking network and an organization linked to thousands of deaths, and the discovery of IMPI’s trademark approvals has become a minor scandal, with local and international media picking up the story. 

Mexico’s Economic Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal was quick to point out that IMPI had approved the requests during the previous administration of Felipe Calderón, not current President Enrique Peña Nieto. 

According to a separate Milenio article, IMPI has received requests to trademark numerous other names associated with Mexican organized crime, but has generally rejected them. 

InSight Crime Analysis

Organized crime-themed products and entertainment is nothing new. “Narcocorridos” or folk songs immortalizing cartel bosses and the criminal lifestyle, for example, are popular throughout Mexico and Central America. However, El Chapo is arguably the only drug trafficker since Colombia’s Pablo Escobar to build up such international recognition and infamy that his image has evolved into a marketable brand.

Already, in the United States, shoppers have been able to dress in the El Chapo prison break costume for Halloween, while sales of paisley blue shirts went up after El Chapo was photographed in one next to actor Sean Penn. 

SEE ALSO: El Chapo Profile

What many find distasteful is that El Chapo’s relatives could profit from a brand built on the violence and criminality that have caused so much harm in Mexico. In Colombia a similar case arose when the family of Pablo Escobar were denied the right to trademark his name.

However, while it may not be controversial to deny relatives the right to benefit from criminal misdeeds, third parties regular capitalize on these markets without much criticism — the popularity of Netflix series “Narcos” and movies such as “Sicario” are evidence of that. And after El Chapo’s recent recapture and meeting with Sean Penn, a movie based on his life seems all but inevitable. 

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