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Aspen businesses poised to prevail in litigation over Escobar name

Pablo Escobar, left, 41-year-old billionaire leader of the Medellin drug cartel, poses at a soccer game in Medellin, Colombia, in 1983. At right is an unidentified bodyguard. (AP Photo)

It appears Pablo Escobar’s name will live on in Aspen.

A legal challenge to several Aspen businesses named after the late drug kingpin fizzled out after plaintiff Escobar Inc. didn’t meet a filing deadline in the U.S. District Court of Denver.

Two federal claims already had been dismissed Sept. 22 by Chief U.S. District Judge Philip Brimer, who gave plaintiff Escobar Inc. until Friday to show cause why he should hear its remaining three claims against Barwest Group, which does business as the Escobar Aspen nightclub downtown; Escobar Spirits, which sells Escobar Vodka; and Escobar Aspen. Aspen businessman Ryan Chadwick controls all three entities.



The Puerto Rico-based Escobar Inc. did not respond by the close of court at 5 p.m. Friday. In a minute order issued Thursday, Judge Brimer warned: “Plaintiff has neither responded to the Court’s show cause order nor sought an extension of time to respond. Plaintiff is reminded that it is required to comply with all court orders and deadlines. Plaintiff shall respond to the order to show cause on or before October 15, 2021. Failure to do so may result in dismissal of the case.”

Escobar Inc. took Chadwick to court in September 2020, claiming it held intellectual property rights to the Escobar name. The company also held itself out to be founded by Roberto Escobar, brother of the South American drug lord. Escobar Inc. had sought a cease-and-desist order from the court to stop Chadwick from using the Escobar name, and also $5 million for profits his businesses made.



Chadwick would not back down, however, and has continued to this day to use the Escobar names. He also recorded a registered trademark and service mark for Escobar the previous decade.

“I filed the trademark in 2013 so happy to hear that the judge decided in our favor,” he said in a text message Friday.

Pablo Escobar Gaviria, leader of the Medallin Cartel in Bogota, Colombia, is shown, Jan. 13, 1988. (AP Photo)

One of Escobar Inc.’s dismissed claims was over copyright infringement, alleging that artwork by Roberto Escobar was “displayed on all of (d)efendants’ ventures” without Escobar Inc.’s consent. While Roberto’s artwork was not registered in the United States, Escobar Inc. attorneys argued they could still bring an infringement action against the Aspen defendants.

In his ruling last month, Judge Brimer disagreed, saying they hadn’t shown “ownership of the copyright, which is needed to bring a copyright infringement action.”

The second federal count Brimer threw out last month was Escobar Inc.’s claim that Chadwick should compensate it for “any and all profits” made off the Escobar name. The judge’s ruling said Escobar Inc. had failed to demonstrate it was entitled to a monetary remedy.

Forbes once ranked Pablo Escobar as one the world’s richest people with a net worth of $30 billion, and his cartel also was responsible for more than 80% of the cocaine smuggled into the U.S. at one time. He was 44 when he died in December 1993 as a result of a shootout with Colombian authorities.

The suit portrayed Escobar as an iconic figure: “Pablo Escobar is regarded as one the greatest heroic outlaws of all time by many in Colombia and all over the world. Moreover, Escobar’s life has been the subject of numerous books, films and television shows. Throughout his life, Escobar was responsible for the construction of houses and football fields in western Colombia for the poor.”

rcarroll@aspentimes.com


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