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Disney withdraws trademark filing for 'Dia de los Muertos'

May 08, 2013|By Adolfo Flores
  • Emeyda and Alberto Matinez join others watching the Day of the Dead celebration on Olvera Street in November. The Walt Disney Co. said it was withdrawing its trademark filing for "Dia de los Muertos," a spokesman said Tuesday.
Emeyda and Alberto Matinez join others watching the Day of the Dead celebration… (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles…)

If the dead could speak, they probably wouldn't have been heard over the burst of virtual shouting and howling Walt Disney Co. drew for attempting to trademark "Dia de los Muertos" -- a bid it has since dropped.

The company filed 10 applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for “Dia de los Muertos,” including applications pertaining to toys, cereals and jewelry. The May 1 filings came in anticipation of an untitled movie about the Mexican holiday, known in English as Day of the Dead.

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

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“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 centuries-old holiday, with roots in indigenous Aztec culture, honors the dead by building altars, decorating gravesites and holding processions. The Day of the Dead is not just observed in Mexico, but other parts of Latin America, Europe and the United States.

A petition to stop Walt Disney Co. from trademarking “Dia de los Muertos” went up on change.org Tuesday, a day after Stitch Kingdom reported the filings. As of Wednesday morning it had 19,500 signatures.

“Our spiritual traditions are for everyone, not for companies like Walt Disney to trademark and exploit,” wrote Grace Sesma, the petition’s creator. “I am deeply offended and dismayed that a family-oriented company like Walt Disney would seek to own the rights to something that is the rightful heritage of the people of Mexico.”

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

The trademark application was "odd" to Evonne Gallardo, executive director of the Boyle Heights art center Self Help Graphics. The center puts on one of the largest Day of the Dead celebrations in Los Angeles and has been sponsored by the Walt Disney Co.

"The right thing to do is not to attempt to trademark a cultural and spiritual celebration," Gallardo said. "I have yet to see a trademark on Christmas or Hanukkah."

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It's not the first time Walt Disney Co. drew criticism for a trademark application. In 2011 it withdrew its application to trademark "Seal Team 6," the name of the military unit that tracked and killed Osama bin Laden. Less than a week after the Navy SEAL team's successful mission, Disney moved to patent with plans to produce toys and entertainment.

After the Navy filed its own trademark claim, Disney bailed out.

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adolfo.flores@latimes.com

Follow Adolfo Flores on Twitter.

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