European court rules drug kingpin Pablo Escobar’s name can’t be trademarked

Colombia’s most feared drug baron, who was shot dead in 1993, earned billions from smuggling cocaine to the US.

Pablo Escobar
A poster with Pablo Escobar's image is stuck on a wall in Medellin, Colombia [File: Herbert Villarraga/Reuters]

The name of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar cannot be registered as a European Union trademark for goods or services in the bloc, a court has ruled.

On Wednesday, the EU General Court in Luxembourg ruled that the name is associated with “drug trafficking and narco-terrorism and with the crimes and suffering resulting” from them, and should not be given protection under intellectual property laws.

The court upheld the decision of the EU’s Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) that refused a trademark application by Escobar Inc in 2022.

Escobar Inc was founded in Puerto Rico by Pablo Escobar’s brother Roberto de Jesus Escobar Gaviria, who spent 12 years in prison for his role in his brother’s criminal organisation.

Pablo Escobar, one of the world’s most notorious outlaws, was killed in a rooftop shootout with police and soldiers in Medellin, Colombia, on December 2, 1993.

He led one of the world’s most powerful criminal organisations, the Medellin cartel, and made his fortune from smuggling cocaine to the United States and is said to be responsible for the deaths of thousands of people.

The judges ruled that the trademark would “be perceived as running counter to fundamental values and moral standards”. The court said Pablo Escobar was largely not associated with any good deeds he is claimed to have carried out on behalf of the poor in Colombia.

Escobar was never convicted under criminal law. But the court said that his “fundamental right to the presumption of innocence has not been infringed because, even though he was never criminally convicted he is publicly perceived … as a symbol of organised crime responsible for numerous crimes”.

Gaviria said in 2020 that his company would launch a foldable smartphone called the Escobar Fold 1. The company currently sells a cryptocurrency called Escobar Cash, according to its website.

Thousands of people were killed in cartel-related violence during and after Escobar’s death. Medellin, Colombia’s second largest city, was ravaged by drug violence, car bombs and regular shootouts as drug gangs, state forces and private armed groups fought for supremacy.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies