Periodista especializada en temas de ciencia desde hace 12 años. Ha escrito para la Academia Mexicana de Ciencias en donde también fue editora de su boletín mensual y ha sido reportera del Foro Consultivo Científico y Tecnológico.
In 2015, Zacatecan businessman José Aguirre Campos registered the StarLink trademark with the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI) to offer connectivity in the country. Does it sound familiar? Yes, it has the same name as billionaire Elon Musk’s high-speed internet.
The Mexican fighting Elon Musk over Starlink trademark
Aguirre Campos is a graduate of Tec de Monterrey’s Monterrey Campus and president of StarGroup, a Mexican company that provides telecommunications and entertainment services.
In an interview with TecReview, he says that he won’t be intimidated just because it’s Elon Musk. Last year, he negotiated with the billionaire’s company and there was a financial offer to transfer the rights, but Aguirre didn’t accept it. Now the case has gone to court.
The second richest man on the planet has successfully registered the name Starlink, a subsidiary company of SpaceX, which offers satellite internet in 189 countries around the world, except Mexico.
Although the Specialized Chamber of the Federal Court of Administrative Justice ruled in favor of Musk, José Aguirre –the party affected by the resolution– filed two suits for amparo (protection) before a judge in federal court, saying that it was a decision based on very weak arguments and that his rights had been affected.
The litigation is ongoing, but (Elon Musk’s) Starlink intends to commence operations on October 28. That is, under the same name as that held by the Mexican company StarGroup.
“They shouldn’t be using the trademark until this controversy is resolved in court, but –inexplicably– they don’t care,” Aguirre Campos explains.
“We’re going to fight to the last breath. Many have said that we won’t survive an expensive and drawn-out litigation. All I can say is that we’re going to die on this hill. We’re not going to give in,” says the StarGroup owner.
When Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, SpaceX’s legal representative in Mexico, tried to negotiate with the Mexican businessman, they couldn’t reach an agreement.
“They think it’s a financial issue, and we’ve already told them that’s not the point. We don’t want to change the trademark, much less under circumstances in which they want to take it away from us because they’re a very large international company,” clarifies the Tec graduate.
He explains that when IMPI denied the SpaceX representative permission to use the brand, they tried to negotiate “a significant sum of money” directly with the owner of StarGroup, but he didn’t accept it.
“We might be interested, but –for the moment– definitely not.”
José Aguirre says that he registered his trademark StarGroup (the company he operates his subsidiaries under) in 2015, along with StarTV, StarGo, StarKa, StarLine, and StarLink., the latter of which offers various internet packages.
Years later, Elon Musk announced his satellite internet company under the same name. The only difference is that the international company uses a lowercase ‘l.’
Three years later, Space Exploration Technologies Corporation came to Mexico. When they tried to register “Starlink,” IMPI notified them that the name was already licensed and refused their request on two occasions.
Space Exploration then took the case to the Specialized Chamber of the Federal Court of Administrative Justice —the only one that handles trademark-related matters and reports to the Executive Branch— and which, within just a few days, ruled in Musk’s favor.
“That’s why we went to court in 2021, to protect ourselves against the Chamber’s ruling,” says the Mexican, who doesn’t understand how a matter that usually takes years to resolve was handled so fast on this occasion.
To withdraw the rights to the trademark from StarGroup, Musk’s legal representative argued that it wasn’t in use.
“Two arguments so flimsy that we’re surprised. Clearly, everyone knows that it’s false. Our customers throughout the country know us under that brand,” he says.
Aguirre says that he registered the trademark under that name for a basic reason: “nobody creates a company first, launches it, and then goes to register the trademark. First, you register your trademark, and then you set up the rest.”
In the midst of the controversy over the ruling, IMPI itself filed a disagreement with the Chamber’s resolution, given that –as a regulatory authority– it had already decided not to give SpaceX permission to register the trademark.
“Under these circumstances, all companies in Mexico would be very worried as they could be exposed to someone taking away their brand because they registered it before creating a company and launching a product,” he says.
“Confident that justice will be served”
The owner of StarGroup says he remains calm. He believes that the court will handle things in accordance with the law and will issue a resolution in his favor on the two suits for amparo.
“Reason is on our side, and that’s why we’re calm. Our arguments are solid. We have the documentation that protects us, and we have every confidence that our rights will be restored.”
He says that the litigation will begin this year, and the magistrates will subpoena the parties to provide arguments and evidence.
What’s more, he trusts that they’ll be compensated for damages since the matter has been under dispute on different occasions for three years.
If this happens, Elon Musk will have to change the name of his company or reach a financial settlement.
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