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July 11, 2023
John Rizvi, Esq.

Mexican Drug Lord Trademarks Name for Fashion Brand: The Patent Professor John Rizvi on WGN Radio

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John is your last name pronounced Rizvi. Do I have that right? Yes, you do John Rizvi. Okay, good. You are the patent professor, an adjunct professor of patent law at Nova Southeastern law school in Florida, and the author of two books on patents. And I want to thank you for coming on because

we were trying to find somebody to talk about this story that I had came across the other day about.

The headline just grabbed me anyway, just the headline itself was the narcos, Mexico drug lord just trademarked his name as a fashion brand.

And as I got into the article, I'm like, How is this possible? So tell me

how is this possible, John? Yeah. So clearly, here in the United States. I mean, there's we have in American jurisprudence, a long standing presumption that convicted criminals should not profit or prosper from their crimes. And so that's that's what I think is behind the, how is this possible? Like, how can

the narcos Mexican drug lord, who's who's currently in jail, getting a trademark on his name? Well, that's that's exactly what's happened.

So it is possible. It's actually

Felix Gallardo, the Mexican drug.

Lord used to work for El Chapo or started yet Oh, Chapo used to work for Gallardo, and he got a trademark on El Chapo 701. So this is not unheard of.

Is this just confined to Mexico? Or are these paths can you? I mean, first of all, I'm just stuck. My head is spinning about this whole concept. If Mexico allows somebody along the lines of these two drug lords, to while they are incarcerated, copyright their name. And as this article

says, be able to put it on.

Let's see, amongst other things,

jewelry, alcoholic beverages, footwear, hats, clothing, watches, books and office supplies.

Isn't that almost as like, I read this as like the Mexican government

really has a loose attitude about not only the drug trade, but the kingpins if you will the drug lords who participate in it. I mean, do you follow my reasoning on that?

I do.

And, you know, it's, it says,

yes, the trademark offices of the United States. And of course, in Mexico, these are government offices. So it's very easy to see is almost when the trademark office grants a trademark, it's almost as if they're condoning, it looks as if they're condoning the activities. That's the word. condoning it. Yeah.

So now, I don't clearly I'm not an expert in in, you know, in Mexican law, but I know that they have the Mexican Industrial Property Law, very similar provisions to the US trademark act.

In that, in the US trademark act, prevents the Lanham Act, the registering of immoral, scandalous or disparaging trademarks. But in the United States, most of those decisions were trademarks were rejected for being either immoral, scandalous or disparaging have been

deemed unconstitutional. Because their content based restrictions on free speech, so I don't know how, you know, Mexican law is going to treat that I do know that they do have

restrictions against trademarks that are considered immoral or indecent. I just don't know how the courts are going to treat that if if they have similar

restrictions on, you know, on on content based restrictions on trademarks, whether those are constitutional under Mexican law or not. No, does this mean that the El Chapo merchandise is already out there?

Oh, it's absolutely out there. In fact,


their brand. I mean, it's funny their branding, it is El Chapo 701. And I don't know if you're familiar with the 701. And what it stands for, but that was El Chapo is listing in Forbes magazine as the 700

Great in first richest person in the world, and that's where the El Chapo 701 comes in,

that they have that 701 logo and the El Chapo name on protected fur, hats, belts, jackets,

all kinds of fashion products that were as well. And these are the drug lords that have been depicted on Netflix limited series a couple of times, right. I mean, there was, I believe there was one that was more of a documentary and then there was one that was more of a docu drama. Am I right about that?

That's true. You know, it's unfortunate, but we can't deny that there is a fascination with crime. And there are people out there that, you know, romanticize criminals, including murderers and drug lords. So this, this is even, you know, the success of Narcos Mexico, on Netflix. I mean, that's, that's a lot of what these

theories are tapping into is people's fascination with with crime. In fact, it's unfortunate, but there's an entire subculture of people that are collecting items owned previously by notorious criminals.

I mean, Haven have a term for it, they call it murder. abelia. And years ago, eBay would you know, until there was a public outcry, and victims, right, advocates kind of pushed and persuaded eBay to stop the practice. They were selling items. I mean, in fact, there's one site that sold for example, the reading glasses for for cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer for his reading glasses for $150,000. There were sold. So there's certainly a profit to be made in, you know, in capitalizing on the fascination people have with these criminals. Well, yes. That sort of leads me into the the term morbid curiosity so to speak.

But, you know, there's a difference in my mind anyway, between a fascination with the whole drug crime world, and movies like The Johnny, I think it was Johnny Depp years ago, was in a movie called blow. And, you know, there been many films about

drug dealers, and the violence and the action, etc. And that's one thing. I mean, they

in these movies anyway, the bad guys always end up being bad guys. And bad stuff happens to them. Nobody gets away. scot free, although you go through like, 90 minutes of them having a good time, before anything bad happens to him. But that's,

it means it seems to me that that's different than selling items from these people who are, well, this is gonna sound so crazy, but I never ever thought I'd have to think about this. I mean, those glasses that you just mentioned, that guy's dead. But this guy is alive, and he's in prison. I mean, and it's gonna who makes the money off of this? Does he? Does he get the money? No, you're Yes. And you bring up a great distinction. So in the Jeffrey Dahmer case, yes, the glasses were sold, but he is not profiting. So. It seems like we're okay with third parties profiting from crime, from the People's fascination with, you know, with just the drug and crime culture. But when it's the I think what puts this in a different category is when you have the drug lord himself filing for a trademark on his name and profiting directly. That's different. That's that somehow crosses the line. But, you know, it's still under trademark law. It's, it's, you know, that's based on

selling goods or services in commerce. And they do have these restrictions, for example, in Mexico and immoral or indecent content, but it didn't. That didn't prevent this from being you know, granted. We're going to talk more about this after this break on 720 WGN. Genres, patented, patent professional,

registered patent attorney. The more I talk to you about this, the more questions and thoughts pop into my mind. If you're just joining us, we're discussing the fact that convicted drug lords in Mexico who are still alive and in prison can do the Mexican patent and copyright law, register their name as trademark and then sell any item that they feel like and slap their likeness or some sort of phrase that they're famous

For, for instance, you mentioned the number 701. What was that in reference to again? That's on some of the clothing.

Yeah, so that

El Chapo is listing in Forbes magazine as the 700 and first richest person in the world? Well, you know that that's where the 701 comes from. While we were away during the break that got me thinking,

if you're the 700, and first richest person in the world, even if you are a criminal,

who's to say that a lot of people who have that much money are criminals? I certainly don't know. But I'm talking about being a drug lord. And that and Forbes. I mean, there's not a more what's the term I'm looking for? Reputable, rich person catalog, you know, magazine in the United States, Forbes, you know, everything's Forbes, Forbes, the richest people, if you make that list, right, you got a lot of dough. And if you're on the Forbes list, there's a certain room acceptance of your wealth, because you're in that magazine, and you would care. It seems to me that you would carry that into the prison in Mexico. And

you would have a lot of, let's just say financial sway over people if you wanted to.

in government and anywhere else, even if you were incarcerated, you follow my thick in there?

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I mean, they still have

what's the influence? Exactly.

That doesn't go away, necessarily, just because you're in jail, especially if the money's still there. If the assets are still there. It's not like they're locked down and not accessible. Now, these folks have,

well, first of all, who buys this stuff? Who would who would want this? I mean, I'm not talking about the things like Jeffrey Dahmer has glasses or things like that. I mean, there's a morbid curiosity there that. I mean, I wouldn't, it disgusts me. But I, I guess I sort of understand it on a certain level. But as I mentioned earlier, these are people who are alive, incarcerated, and have copyrights have copyright now for their names and our selling thing, who buys this stuff.

So and if you look at some of the categories, that's how when you file for a trademark to protect the brand, you have to state which categories of goods or services you plan to sell. So some of them, you know, kind of might make sense like jewelry, maybe alcoholic beverages.

But then others, like when you start looking at, like office supplies? I mean, our chat, Apple grant office supplies, I get it even

get to be a stretch. I mean, I don't know if you want to get your your your markers and notebooks with

El Chapo 701 on them. Yeah, so some, you know, clearly, I'm not the target. And you are not the target audience for this. I mean, but there's clearly demand. And there are there are people that that's buying them. It's, you know, the trademarking is the it's a little bit less achy, so to speak, then buying the actual items of, you know, Jeffrey Dahmer eyeglasses, is not the same as buying a t shirt that's, you know, El Chapo 701 brand or something. It's, you know, when, when the brand, it's a different product. And the other one is the actual item used by, you know, a convicted murderer. But I think that the 701 brand of an of a drug dealer who is still incarcerated and you buy it, you're glorifying that person. You're

you're walking around with their trademark on your personage, or whatever else that you have. And that seems to be totally opposite of the idea of stopping people from doing drugs or the drug trade.

You know, you got met? Yeah, yeah. I mean, I don't get it.

And the only and the only way I can think that this is possible is because these people have so much money, even if they are in jail, and that in Mexico, they can exercise their influence because I don't see anything positive about this at all, except the family of the drug lords. Get to make money. I'm assuming that the I should maybe I shouldn't assume. How about the other family members of these incarcerated individuals with wives that have sons or daughters or cousins or whatever? I mean, are they in on this too?

Yeah, well certainly, you know, under inheritance laws like, they stand to benefit. But you bring up an interesting point about like, glorifying the,

you know, the criminal. And but nobody and everyone knows their names, but what about the victims, and we're seeing a lot of that sentiment recently, you know, even in the United States with these mass shootings.

And that's why you have a lot of media really focusing more on the victims and telling their stories, because a lot of times, they're forgotten, and everyone focuses on the shooter himself or herself. And that's where all the publicity lies. And nobody talks about the victims and what they did and about their lives. So I hear

there's nothing like, I mean, I know the answer to this question. I'm pretty sure even as I asked it, but there's no way in under the in the United States that anything like this could happen, is there?

Well, yes, there's no

there's no restrictions. While there are you have the Lanham Act restrictions on immoral, scandalous and disparaging marks. But they have not been.

The Supreme Court struck down

several decisions where trademarks were rejected by the trademark office

under this spaces, because it's a limitation on on free speech. So I, you know, this is not something I know in this case, it happens to be,

you know, the Mexican drug lord. And but I don't think it's safe to say that this can happen in Mexico and the Mexican Trademark Office can grant these trademarks, but that would never happen in the United States. Well, thank you, John. We're out of time. We will have to talk again sometime because totally fascinating. Thank you so much for being with us.

Thank you, always a pleasure.

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