Uproar over Disney move to trademark ‘Hakuna Matata’ phrase
- This is especially after a petition by Zimbabwean activist Shelton Mpala to have Disney remove the trademark has, as at the time of publishing, garnered over 36,000 signatures.
- Disney first applied for the trademark in 1994 and was approved for registration in 2003.
- The debate has now caused a stir online with most Twitter users agreeing with Mr. Mpala and urging the American film production powerhouse to drop the trademark.
A decision by the Walt Disney Company to trademark the phrase ‘Hakuna Matata’ which was popularised in their ‘Lion King’ film has drawn ire online.
This is especially after a petition by Zimbabwean activist Shelton Mpala to have Disney remove the trademark has, as at the time of publishing, garnered over 36,000 signatures.
Disney first applied for the trademark in 1994 and was approved for registration in 2003; this means those who print the phrase ‘Hakuna Matata’ – which translates to ‘no worries’ in English – on their t-shirts are liable for a law suit from the film production company.
Mr. Mpala, however, likens this to “colonialism and robbery, the appropriation of something you have no right over.”
“Join us and say NO to DISNEY or any corporations/individuals looking to trademark languages, terms or phrases they didn’t invent,” says the activist in his petition.
He further adds: “If we were to go that route, then we owe the British royalties for everyone who speaks English, or France for when we speak French.”
‘Hakuna Matata’ is a phrase that has been largely used in Kiswahili-speaking countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The phrase is also the title of a song released in 1984 by Kenyan band ‘Them Mushrooms’ that is still reportedly used to welcome tourists into the country at major hotels today.
The debate has now caused a stir online with most Twitter users agreeing with Mr. Mpala and urging the American film production powerhouse to drop the trademark.
This comes after Walt Disney announced a live action remake of the ‘Lion King’ film set for release in 2019 directed by Jon Favreau and featuring global icons such as Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jon Oliver, Keegan-Michael Key, and pop star Beyoncé
Below are some of the reactions:
Hey everyone, pls RT this petition for @DisneyStudios to be barred from trademarking #HakunaMatata. It's a Swahili phrase that we've used since time immemorial but white people still be trying to steal even after our independence. #Shame! pic.twitter.com/kSrUm360BV
— Mwikali Mutune (@Mwikali_Mutune) December 10, 2018
How do u trademark somebody else's language? @Disney can u explain
— Muthunzi Zulu (@willi_Yam) December 17, 2018
In 2013 Disney attempted to trademark the phrase ‘Día de los muertos.’ I can only assume the pressure & criticism caused them to drop the case.
Then they went on to trademark a Swahili phrase. https://t.co/uzm0XTFPN6
— 「INVITED」hex maniac michael (@hecksmaniac) December 18, 2018
HOW YOU GOING TO TRADE MARK A WHOLE LANGUAGE THAT ISNT EVEN YOURS . 🤨🤨🤨
— AbduNeri (@AbduNeri) December 17, 2018
For Disney to trademark the Swahili phrase "Hakuna Matata", is typical corporate colonialism which we should all say NO to. pic.twitter.com/VczFQ42T9j
— #SayNoToXenophobia (@Ugaman01) December 17, 2018
East African countries, especially Kenya and Tanzania, should oppose the move by @Disney to trademark the "Hakuna Matata" phrase. They r silent. It is the Zimbabweans who are opposing the move. Terms "Jambo Kenya" and "Hakuna Matata" have been identities of Kenya's tourism!
— juma G. 🇰🇪 (@jumaf3) December 17, 2018
For @Disney to trademark the "Hakuna Matata" phrase without following due process is "robbery of culture!" I think Disney cannot purport to own the phrase unless I am mistaken.
— juma G. 🇰🇪 (@jumaf3) December 17, 2018
but like how is Disney gonna trademark a phrase in a language that existed long before the Lion King and that my country has basically being using to promote itself for decades? can they just do that?
— GiveXiuminASojuCF (@MemeNapRepeat) December 17, 2018
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