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Disney Receives Backlash After Trademarking 'Hakuna Matata'

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It wouldn’t be the holiday season unless someone would be getting offended about something, right? This time around it’s Disney that is feeling the heat as the company has faced quite the backlash over its “Hakuna Matata” trademark.

Hakuna Matata is a Swahili phrase that simply means “no worries.” As a matter of fact, it was used as the lead song in the 1994 animated Disney hit, The Lion King and has been a huge favorite among fans for several decades now. But not everyone is happy over the fact that Disney wants to trademark it for their own purposes, which included Lion King-related merchandise.

According to several reports, Zimbabwean activist Shelton Mpala has started an online petition for the trademark on the phrase to be removed. So far over 160,000 people have signed it in support - and counting.

“While we respect Disney as an entertainment institution responsible for creating many of our childhood memories, the decision to trademark ‘Hakuna Matata’ is predicated purely on greed and is an insult not only the spirit of the Swahili people but also, Africa as a whole,” Mpala wrote in the Change.org petition.

If that weren’t enough, Disney is also being accused of cultural appropriation. Business Daily Africa columnist Cathy Mputhia had a few things to say about the controversy, too.

“It is unfortunate that there has been a lot of pilferage of African culture over the years, through the use of intellectual property rights," wrote Mputhia in her column this past week. “This means that heritage that ought to belong to a certain group of people is instead pilfered using legal methods, whereby third parties end up being awarded sole rights."

With that being said, it doesn’t look like everyone is offended over Disney’s trademarking plans. A Kenyan intellectual property and entertainment lawyer told CNN that social media and the Internet have inflamed the issue and created needless confusion.

“The use of ‘Hakuna Matata’ by Disney does not take away the value of the language,” Liz Lenjo told CNN. “East Africans or whoever speaks Swahili worldwide are not restricted from using the phrase.”

Disney is yet to make any comments about the controversy. Of course, this isn’t the first the company has trademarked a popular phrase. In the past, they have trademarked phrases such as “Yahoo!,” “Vaya con Dios (Go with God),” “Merry Christmas” and “Seasons Greetings.” So far none of these trademarks prevent the public from using these words, whether it’s written or in phrases in conversation.

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