Hakuna Matata – Common Phrase vs. The Trademark
Written by: Rutuparna Acharya
“Hakuna Matata,” the registered trademark of Disney filed in 1994 is now surrounded with specific controversies, and the reason behind this controversy is thoroughly enumerated below.
‘Walt Disney’ or just to say ‘Disney’ – the famous name in the world of animation is well-known to everyone. Its creation, Lion King – the award-winning American animated feature film released in 1994 is the highest grossing 2D animated film of all the time in the United States that has brought path-breaking success and popularity to Disney.
It can be said that among us hardly anyone is there who would not like the beautiful remake of Disney’s “The Lion King” featuring a meerkat and a warthog duo singing a song that includes the now pervasive Swahili phrase “Hakuna Matata.”
The struggle began with the filing of an online petition by Shelton Mpala, an activist from Zimbabwe asking Disney to drop its trademark of the phrase that is used widely in eastern and southern Africa which means “no problems” or “no worries.”
He urged that Disney has gained affection and respect worldwide as an entertainment institution with its many animated creations, but its trademark over the phrase “Hakuna Matata” is not at all appreciable, as it not only affects the common local language but can also be considered as an assault to the culture and spirit of Swahili people as well as entire Africa. Standing with this at present his petition page has approximately 150,000 signatures which are still going on.
Let’s first talk from the angle of Disney. According to Disney, they have registered the phrase as a trademark for clothing or footwear thereby to protect their brand name from being infringed by others. By recording the expression neither, they meant to prevent others from using the phrase nor ever intended to assault or hurt the culture of the Swahili people.
Considering the other aspect, it can be said that although for the people those who are using this phrase “Hakuna Matata” as a local language in Africa, its use by Disney is an insult towards spirit and culture of Swahili people as well as for whole Africa.
Even with the term ‘Hakuna Matata,’ Disney is not the only owner of the trademark, as there are others like a wedding company of South Florida and a New York-based producer of vitamins and dietary supplements own trademark with variation with this Swahili phrase.
The conclusion is yet to come, and it’s time to wait to see whether Disney will be protected and come out of all these controversies, or the brand will lose its goodwill and fame because of the bad impression among all due to having the trademark with the phrase “Hakuna Matata.”
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