The Walt Disney Co. has dropped its bid to trademark "Día de los Muertos" after a public outcry characterizing the company's move as culturally insensitive.
The company filed 10 applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for "Día de los Muertos," including applications pertaining to toys, cereals and jewelry. The May 1 filings came in anticipation of an untitled movie about the Latin American 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 Dia de los Muertos," a studio spokesperson said in a statement. "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."
Those observing the centuries-old holiday, with roots in indigenous Aztec culture, honor the dead by building altars, decorating graves and holding processions. Day of the Dead, traditionally celebrated in early November - often the day after Halloween - is observed in Mexico and other parts of Latin America, as well as in Europe and the United States.
"This is a case of bad judgment, where the legal strategy clouded common sense," said Christopher V. Carani, partner at the Chicago intellectual property firm McAndrews, Held & Malloy.
A petition to stop Disney from trademarking "Día de los Muertos" went up on the website Change.org Tuesday, a day after the website Stitch Kingdom reported the filings. The petition closed Wednesday with 21,277 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."
The trademark application was "odd" to Evonne Gallardo, executive director of the Los Angeles art center Self Help Graphics. The center puts on one of the largest Day of the Dead celebrations in Los Angeles, an event Disney has sponsored.
"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."
On StarNet: Find Day of the Dead-themed T-shirts, buttons and other gear, featuring illustrations by Arizona Daily Star artist Chiara Bautista, at azstarnet.com/shop
"Our spiritual traditions are for everyone, not for companies like Walt Disney to trademark and exploit."
Grace Sesma, creator of online petition to stop Disney from trademarking "Día de los Muertos"