Disney Takes Aim to Trademark “Hakuna Matata” in Controversial Move

“Hakuna Matata”—it means no worries for the rest of your days!

But soon, that might not be the case, thanks to Disney.

Namwali Serpell’s recent article for the Guardian discusses the Disney corporation’s decision to trademark the Swahili tagline “Hakuna Matata,” which roughly translates to “no worries.”

This news comes as the company is gearing up for The Lion King reboot, directed by Jon Favreau.

Audiences seem particularly unhappy with this controversial decision because it portrays Swahili as somewhat of a made-up language that only exists to create catchphrases. The fact that Disney has trademarked an existing language seems to ignore the fact that real people actually speak this language.

Serpell calls Disney’s decision “rampantly greedy” and a way to capitalise on a culture that is so often unfairly stereotyped in the media. Subsequently, with this trademark decision, it “paints this ‘Africa’ as an imaginary space but nevertheless uses broad, stereotypical tropes about the continent (animals and warrior tribes and mangled accents).”

Serpell not only talks about how problematic this decision is, but that is also simply doesn’t make sense—nobody would ever think to trademark a Western, widely spoken language, so why is it okay to trademark Swahili?

“There is a patent absurdity to the idea that Hakuna Matata would be subject to trademark,” writes Serpell. “It’s like copyrighting ‘goodbye’ or ‘hang loose’.”

As a result of the outrage, a change.org petition has been created that seeks to “say no to Disney or any corporations/individuals looking to trademark languages, terms or phrases they didn’t invent.” The petition has already received over 120,000 signatures.

What are your thoughts? Is this an example of “PC nonsense” or is Disney wrong in trademarking the term? Let us know!

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Cassidy Anthony

American student living in the UK. I like dogs and movies and speaking French.