19 December 2018Trademarks

Disney under fire over ‘Hakuna matata’ trademark

Disney has come under fire for its ‘Hakuna matata’ trademark in recent days, with  a petition calling on the media conglomerate to drop the mark gaining traction online.

‘Hakuna matata’ is a phrase from the Swahili language spoken widely across East Africa, meaning “no worries” or “no problem”.

Disney applied to trademark the phrase, which featured heavily in its 1994 film “The Lion King”, in 1994. The  mark, registered in 2003, covers class 25 (clothing, footwear and headgear). Disney has numerous ‘Hakuna matata’ t-shirts which bear the phrase available online.

Shelton Mpala, a Zimbabwean-Canadian activist who started the petition, said that “Disney can't be allowed to trademark something that it didn’t invent”.

Mpala likened the trademark to colonialism,  saying that he “started this petition to draw attention to the appropriation of African culture and the importance of protecting African heritage, identity and culture from being exploited for financial gain by third parties”.

“The trademarking of ‘Hakuna matata’ also sets precedence for other foreign corporations, businesses and individuals to do the same,” Mpala added.

The petition has received over 50,000 signatures at the time of publication.

The controversy comes ahead of the release of a computer-animated remake of “The Lion King” in July 2019. Disney has yet to comment on the matter, but WIPR has contacted the company for comment.

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