TV | September 21, 2017 10:30 am

Escobar Family and Netflix Enter Trademark Dispute Over ‘Narcos’

The family of Pablo Escobar says Netflix owes $1 billion to Escobar Inc.

Pedro Pascal and Bruno Bichir in Narcos (2015)
Pedro Pascal and Bruno Bichir in Narcos (2015)

Narcos is currently still reeling from the death of Carlos Munoz Portal, a Narcos location scout who was found shot dead in his car in September. Now, The Hollywood Reporter writes, Netflix is also dealing with a trademark dispute with the family of Pablo Escobar, who is the Colombia drug kingpin the series dramatizes.

Roberto De Jesus Escobar Gaviria, Escobar’s surviving brother, threatened Narcos if Netflix fails to provide a $1 billion payment to his company, Escobar Inc., for intellectual property violations, The Hollywood Reporter writes. A letter was sent to the family a letter on July 27 by Los Angeles firm Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP, on behalf of Narcos Productions, LLC (NPL), which is the company behind the series. The letter said that Escobar filed “use-based applications to register the marks NARCOS and CARTEL WARS with the [U.S. Patent and Trademark Office] covering a range of goods and services,” reports The Hollywood Reporter. 

The services are wide-ranging, from ringtones and sheet music to temporary tattoos and bookmarks. The letter calls the claims “fraudulent.” NPL attorney Jill M. Pietrini says that Escobar claims it has used NARCOS for services online since 1986, but “the internet had not been developed for widespread consumer use in 1986.”

Netflix’s lawyers then threatened to sue the Escobar family in retaliation. The letter claims that “the specimen used by Escobar for the trademark application appears to be either from NPL’s advertising, or at the very least, an infringing artwork.”

The Hollywood Reporter spoke to Rebecca Tushnet, a Harvard Law School professor who focuses on copyright and trademark law, who said that it is “unlikely” that the family could trademark the word “Narcos” since that has become colloquial for anyone involved in the drug cartel trade.

Olof Gustafsson, the CEO of Escobar Inc., told The Hollywood Reporter that Netflix has seen the “logic” in settlement discussions, but Tushnet said this is common in Hollywood. Hollywood will pay small amounts to make minor issues disappear, Tushnet told The Hollywood Reporter. 

Gaviria, 71, also said that the show’s producers are not cut out for filming in such dangerous and cartel-infested areas, like Mexico and Colombia. The Hollywood Reporter writes that Gaviria suggested they would benefit from hiring “hitman as security.”