Tensions have reached a new high in the ongoing Narcos IP battle after the brother of deceased drug kingpin Pablo Escobar suggested that the show should hire “hitmen” to serve as security for the production. This comes in the wake of the shooting death in Mexico of a location scout for the hit Netflix show about the meteoric rise and eventual fall of Escobar’s massive cocaine trafficking operation in the 1980s and ’90s.  Pablo’s brother, Roberto de Jesus Escobar Gaviria, also threatened to shut down production if the streaming service did not provide $1 billion to the Escobar family in exchange for the use of Pablo’s story and likeness. Roberto was the lead accountant and alleged “king of the hitmen” for his brother’s enterprise, and served over a decade in prison in Colombia for his crimes. Roberto formed  Escobar, Inc. in 2014 and registered “successor–in–interest” rights for Pablo in California.

The bold demand for $1 billion from Netflix was first made in July of last year, but did not gain much traction. In August of 2016 Roberto filed use-based applications to register the marks “Narcos” and “Cartel Wars” (the subtitle of a video game spin-off of the show). In response, attorneys for Narcos Productions, LLC (the production company behind Narcos) sent a cease–and–desist letter to Roberto denying the validity of the application and outlining the legal actions available at their disposal. Highlights from the trademark application include the statement that Roberto has used the Narcos mark in connection with things like “operating a website” and “providing online game services” since 1986, in spite of the fact that the internet was not yet in existence in 1986. Nonetheless, Olaf Gustaffson, CEO of Escobar, Inc., maintains that Netflix is not taking this dispute lightly. Says Gustaffson: “our attorneys and their attorneys have come to an agreement that basically they need to pay us something. Now it’s a matter of determining how much that something is.” Whatever it is, it seems likely that it will be significantly less than the $1 billion demanded by the surviving Escobars.


–Casey Foote

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