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Corporate Fail: Disney's Attempt to Trademark Cultural Holiday

Disney drops efforts to trademark 'Día de los Muertos' following online outrage

Andrea Germanos, staff writer

Cartoon by Lalo Alcaraz/

Disney has dropped its effort to trademark 'Día de los Muertos,' a holiday celebrated in Mexico and around the world, following widespread outrage.

Fronteras Desk reported that

Disney filed 10 requests in the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office this month to coin the phrase. Disney's filings are mainly for merchandise, presumably connected to an upcoming film.

The areas they are hoping to secure include “education and entertainment services,” “fruit preserves; fruit-based snack foods,” “toys, games and playthings,” “clothing,” “footwear,” “backpacks,” “clocks and jewelry” and more.

Online outraged followed the news that the corporation would appropriate and profit from a cultural tradition.

A petition launched following the announcement states:

Dia de los Muertos is a religious observance during which Mexican people, and particularly native peoples, in Mexico, the United States, and abroad, honor ancestors and loved ones who have died. This important religious, spiritual, and cultural observance pre-dates the invasion of Mexico by the Spanish. We celebrate these sacred days and honor our deceased loved ones by making altars and placing offerings of food such as pan de muertos baked in shapes of skulls and figures, candles, incense, yellow marigolds known as cempaxochitl, and offering prayers and the smoke of copal. Disney's proposed trademarks would negatively affect the livelihood of bakers, the work of artists and craftspeople, and of writers and educators.

Our spiritual traditions are for everyone, not for companies like Walt Disney to trademark and exploit. I am deeply offended and dismayed that a family-oriented company like Walt Disney would seek own the rights to something that is the rightful heritage of the people of Mexico.

More reactions from Twitter:

But just a week after submitting its trademark requests, Disney said it was dropping those efforts, stating:

Disney's trademark filing was intended to protect any potential title for our film and related activities. It has since been determined that the title of the film will change, and therefore we are withdrawing our trademark filing.

As On the Commons, a movement working for a commons-based society has documented, Disney has been 'raiding the commons' for decades, taking from the public domain but offering nothing back in return.


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