Netflix is in the middle of a $1 billion suit with the Escobar family over trademark infringement over their hit show, Narcos. That’s no small chunk of change, but the Escobar family, specifically Roberto De Jesus Escobar Gaviria, Pablo Escobar’s brother, is raising the stakes by making veiled threats of violence toward the show’s producers. In a conversation with The Hollywood Reporter, Gaviria warned that filming a show about his family in areas that are still affected by cartel violence is not a great idea, and that the show’s producers should look into hiring “hitmen … as security.” He went on to clarify his warning: “It is very dangerous. Especially without our blessing. This is my country.” Oh– and he intends to “close their little show.”
Of course, Gaviria was very careful in how he used his words, in the tradition of mobsters, cartel bosses, and politicians before him. He did not specifically threaten the show’s creators in a way that could get him in legal trouble. But in light of the recent and very real killing of a location scout for the show, his words pack heavy ammunition. Carlos Munoz Portal was shot and killed on September 11th of this year in northern Mexico, looking for locations for the new season of Narcos. The next season features the rise of Mexican cartels in relation to the Colombian trade. Gaviria obstinately refused to comment on Portal’s death, raising chilling implications.
The suit is filed on behalf of Escobar Inc, which claims to have trademarks “NARCOS” and “CARTEL WARS.” While the Escobar family indisputably brought those concepts to international infamy, the details of their case remain in question. Have they actually been using those terms for legal goods and services since 1986?
All of this follows unsuccessful attempts of contact between Escobar Inc. and Netflix. Last year, Gaviria requested to be the first watch season 2, writing in a press release ,“I am submitting a formal, friendly request to review this material solely on an informational basis.” After being ignored, it seems his requests have become more formal and much less friendly.
Other members of the Escobar family have spoken up about the show as well, but with different motives. Pablo’s son,Sebastian Marroquin, is critical of the show, as he fears it glorifies the violence that characterized (and currently characterizes) cartel life in Colombia.