© 200 B.C.: Starbucks’ Encounter With Intellectual Property Rights in Historic Artifacts

After being notified by the Mexican government that its new line of mugs featuring images of pre-Hispanic archeological sites and artifacts was an unauthorized use of Mexican cultural intellectual property, Starbucks has agreed to pay up.

Starbucks said Thursday it regrets any misunderstanding, and “we are willing to pay the appropriate amount for the use of these images.”

Mexico’s government archaeological agency says the images of the Aztec calendar stone and the Pyramid of the Moon from the pre-Aztec ruins of Teotihuacan are the intellectual property of the nation. The agency will decide how much Starbucks should pay.

The existence of intellectual property rights on pre-Aztec artifacts makes the current terms for copyright in the U.S. seem quite reasonable in comparison.

It appears that it is the Mexican division of Starbucks at issue, so the company is of course required to comply with any Mexican laws regarding cultural heritage and intellectual property. Outside of Mexico, those laws would have no direct effect, and you’re free to place the Pyramid of the Moon wherever you want.


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