Society

Disney Attempts to Trademark Mexican Tradition ‘Dia de los Muertos’

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht
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Walt Disney Co. announced it will pull a trademark bid previously made on the phrase “Dia de los Muertos,” the name of the Mexican holiday celebrating the lives of those who have died.

The company filed 10 applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Officer on May 1 in anticipation of a new Disney-Pixar animated feature inspired by the Mexican Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead in English.

“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,” said a Disney studio spokesperson in a statement.

The applications filed pertained to cereals, jewelry and toys.

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Inititally reported Tuesday, Disney felt widespread backlash for the trademark.

Creator of the comic strip "La Cucaracha," Lalo Alcaraz, tweeted: "Disney to trademark Dia de Los Muertos, also your dead relatives."

By the end of the day, Disney released a statement that they would be changing the name of the film.

Michael Campillo, founding partner at Venable Campillo Logan and Meaney in Pheonix, told USA Today that the trademark would not have made a difference to the public at large, only stop people from creating more movies or merchandise under that name. But he agreed it was odd for the company to trademark a phrase so widely used.

"It seems odd that they would go out of their way to upset the consuming public," Campillo said, "a large part of which they're trying to court for business."

Disney filed to trademark the name “Seal Team 6” in 2011, but withdrew that bid after criticism as well. They claimed it was pulled out of deference to the military.

The tradition of Dia de los Muertos is observed in many parts of Latin America, Europe and the U.S. Otherwise known as All Souls' Day and steeped in Catholic beliefs and ingenious practices, graves of relatives and friends are visited and decorated.

A petition at Change.org was created by Colorado woman asking Walt Disney Co. to stop the trademark. As of Wednesday afternoon, the petition had more than 21,000 signatures.

Please help me by signing this petition asking Disney to stop trademarking “Dia de los Muertos”.  Right now Walt Disney Company is trying to appropriate and exploit Mexican religion and culture by trademarking “Dia de los Muertos,” wrote petition author Grace Sesma.

“You can’t trademark someone’s culture, especially a spiritual tradition,” wrote Darin Fenger of Yuma, Ariz. “This is highly offensive to people of any heritage.”

Signer Consuelo Alba of Watsonville, Calif., wrote, “This is a sacred tradition. It’s NOT FOR SALE.”

Zarco Guerror of Mesa, Ariz., told USA Today he planned to see the film despite mixed feelings about the content. "But it's going to have huge ramifications culturally. It's going to change the face of Dia de los Muertos."

Sources: L.A. Times, USA Today