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After outcry, Disney nixes attempt to trademark 'Dia de Los Muertos' for movie-themed products (Updated)

Part of Disneyland's Day of the Dead decor in 2008. Disney Enterprises, Inc. has filed several trademark applications for the phrase
Part of Disneyland's Day of the Dead decor in 2008. Disney Enterprises, Inc. has filed several trademark applications for the phrase "Dia de Los Muertos."
Photo by juliewolfson306/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Faster than you can say mala idea, the Disney Co. has announced it is withdrawing its attempt to trademark the phrase Día de Los Muertos — as in the name of the traditional holiday that is celebrated in Mexico and elsewhere to honor the dead.

Disney had filed several trademark applications in relation to a forthcoming Día de Los Muertos-related Pixar film.

The backlash was swift, and late Tuesday afternoon a Disney spokesperson issued this statement:

“As we have previously announced, Disney-Pixar is developing an animated feature inspired by the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos. 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.”

The Fronteras Desk reported that the applications were filed May 1 :

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. 

The U.S. Trademark and Patent Office website lists 10 applications for "Dia De Los Muertos" filed by Disney Enterprises, Inc. in Burbank. A sample application listing "goods and services" under the desired trademark has this list:

Bags; backpacks; calling card cases; coin purses; fanny packs; key cases; key chains; luggage; luggage tags; purses; umbrellas; wallets

Another features a sort of "Day of the Dead Before Christmas" product list:

Toys, games and playthings; gymnastic and sporting articles (except clothing); hand-held units for playing electronic games for use with or without an external display screen or monitor; Christmas stockings; Christmas tree ornaments and decorations; snow globes

As for the backlash, a few comments on the Fronteras website today included this one from Candace Curtis-Cavazos:

Disney has no right to claim my culture or the lives of those I have lost and how we celebrate that. This is wrong and Latinos across the world will be highly offended if this happens. Given Latinos are the largest growing population in the US right now, I would advise Disney to back off or else they may find themselves at a loss of a large population of supporters.

Martha Liliana Gómez wrote: 

This is pretty horrible and disrespectful.

And this one from Kimbo Martinez (asterisks added):

This is not Ok. You cant trademark my culture! F**k You DISNEY!

It looks like Disney isn't the first to apply to trademark "Dia de Los Muertos." The patent office website shows two applications from other entities filed for the same term in the 2000s. One company succeeded in 2007: The Valence Group of Houston has a current registered trademark employing the phrase for "entertainment services, namely, the continuing production and exhibition of live theater production, stage plays and musical shows."

This isn't the first time Disney has recently backtracked on a trademark attempt. The company tried to do the same with the phrase "SEAL Team 6" after the Navy unit killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011. But Disney withdrew its application "out of deference for the Navy" after a slew of public criticism, during which the Navy applied for its own trademark.