Killing of 'Narcos' scout resurfaces Escobar trademark feud

5 stunning stats about Netflix
5 stunning stats about Netflix

Pablo Escobar, one of the world's wealthiest and most notorious drug lords, met his end nearly a quarter-century ago, but his legacy continues to cast a shadow over the Netflix drama "Narcos."

On September 11, Carlos Munoz Portal, a location manager for the Netflix television series "Narcos," was found dead. He had suffered multiple gunshot wounds in a car on a dirt road outside Mexico City, near a site he was scouting for future episodes of the TV show.

Roberto De Jesus Escobar Gaviria
Roberto De Jesus Escobar Gaviria, Pablo Escobar's brother

In the wake of Portal's death, Pablo Escobar's brother is bringing his year-long trademark dispute with Netflix back into the headlines through an interview he gave The Hollywood Reporter (THR). In that interview, speaking of "Narcos," which based its first two seasons on Pablo Escobar's life, he reportedly said he would "close their little show" if the streaming service did not reach a settlement agreement with him.

Roberto De Jesus Escobar Gaviria is Pablo Escobar's brother and former accountant. He is also the founder of holding company Escobar Inc.. In July of 2016, his company requested $1 billion compensation from Netflix for what it contends are intellectual property violations. It claims the streaming service has reaped substantial financial benefits from the popular global series by using Escobar's name and story.

Olof K. Gustafsson, chief executive officer of Escobar Inc., contended in an interview with CNNMoney that the company's request might sound "crazy" but they believe that "Narcos" is the streaming giant's most successful series and, he said, "it was never done with our authorization."

The company also seeks to defend its quest to copyright key terms related to the series and a related video game, "Narcos: Cartel Wars."

Narcos Productions, LLC, the company behind the series, has contested some of Escobar Inc.'s trademark requests, according to documents obtained by THR.

Lawyers for the company did not return CNN's request for comment.

Some of Escobar Inc.'s trademark requests relating to the name Pablo Escobar have already been granted, according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office database -- some as recently as September 19.

Escobar Inc. issued a press release this week calling on Netflix to make changes to their security protocol, with Gustafsson saying in a statement that it was "clearly not safe to film shows about drug lords."

Gaviria, 71, also spoke to THR and cautioned Hollywood about filming in Mexico and Colombia.

"I don't want Netflix or any other film production company to film any movies in Medellin or Colombia that relates to me or my brother Pablo without authorization from Escobar Inc. It is very dangerous. Especially without our blessing," he told THR. "This is my country."

Asked how he would construe a statement put out by the Escobar family cautioning Netflix not to film in Mexico, Gustafsson said, "It should be construed as reality." He added that he had no comment about how Netflix should approach filming in Mexico in the wake of the scout's death.

Netflix had no comment on the ongoing trademark dispute, Gaviria's comments or the death of Portal.

Netflix had released an earlier statement calling Portal "a well-respected location scout" and offering "condolences to his family."

Esobar Inc.
Robert De Jesus Escobar Gaviria (center) and Escobar Inc executives Olof K. Gustafsson (L) and Daniel D. Reitberg (R)

Gustafsson said Netflix has not responded to Escobar Inc's offer to speak "about their security issues," in light of Portal's death.

Gaumont Television, which produces "Narcos" for Netflix and remains a key figure in the trademark dispute, did not respond to CNNMoney's request for comment on the dispute with Escobar Inc. or on plans for Season 4's production going forward.

In a statement, the production company did, however, say it was "shocked and devastated" to learn about the death of Portal, who it called "an esteemed and enormously well-regarded location scout."

"We are providing our full support to the local authorities as they investigate this tragedy and all of us at Gaumont send our heartfelt condolences to his family," Gene Stein, president of Gaumont Television, U.S., told CNNMoney.

The first two seasons of the Netflix drama focused on Escobar's cartel, including the efforts by the DEA and Colombian authorities to capture him, culminating with the drug lord's death in 1993.

Season 3 segued to Colombia's Cali cartel. Executive Producer Eric Newman said after the first season he wasn't concerned about finding new plot lines. "We plan on stopping when cocaine stops," he told Deadline.

Escobar Inc. Chief Operating Officer Daniel D. Reitberg told CNNMoney he's confident the company will win its battle "in the court of law."

"We're not just in the jungle. We're not just some defunct cartel. We are a real company with real trademarks, a real legitimate company," Reitberg said. "And I happen to have been in the jungle with Roberto Escobar, biological brother of Pablo, down in Medellin, and I know that Roberto will not take less than $1 billion."

-- CNN's Megan Thomas contributed to this report.


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