Petition Calls on Disney to Drop ‘Hakuna Matata’ Trademark

"Hakuna Matata" was a well known song in Disney's 1994 hit movie "The Lion King." A remake of the "The Lion King" is due for release next year.

An online petition is calling on Disney to relinquish its trademark of the Swahili phrase “Hakuna Matata.”

The phrase, which roughly translates to “no problems” or “no worries” and is a common expression in parts of eastern and southern Africa, is perhaps best known as a song in Disney’s 1994 hit movie “The Lion King.”

The company trademarked the expression the same year, according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

The petition, created by Zimbabwean activist Shelton Mpala, has received more than 50,000 signatures.

Mpala told CNN he started the petition “to draw attention to the appropriation of African culture and the importance of protecting our heritage, identity and culture from being exploited for financial gain by third parties.”

“This plundered artwork serves to enrich or benefit these museums and corporations and not the creators or people it’s derived from,” Mpala said.

Disney has not responded to CNN’s request for comment.

Liz Lenjo, a Kenyan intellectual property and entertainment lawyer, disagrees with the petition. Lenjo said Disney “has not stolen anything” and the outrage over the trademark is misplaced. The blame should go to social media for “blowing things out of proportion” Lenjo said.

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

She added: “The conversation on the internet has been blowing up because of a misconception and misunderstanding around intellectual property law, the ethos behind intellectual property law and the various regimes of protection.”

A remake of the “The Lion King” is due for release in 2019.

7 comments

  • jimbrony

    And we wonder why space aliens don’t want to visit us. A phrase – that outside of Africa no one probably never heard of before – is made popular and most likely encouraged some people to further study and appreciate African people and culture, and maybe even visit the country – is opposed by an African. Brilliant. Perhaps Mr. Mpala would feel better if Disney would just send a few million his way, he would forget about the whole thing. I guess all that money that the exiled prince had stashed away is all gone. That would explain why I never got my share of it…

  • straubdavid9

    What “appropriation”? We are all out of Africa …… some of us for so long that we are no longer even Black!

    • Silverfish Imperetrix

      Fossils were found in Europe last year that predate humans in Africa by 200,000 years. Google ‘mankind out of Africa’. (Needless to say, that was kept quiet.)

      • straubdavid9

        I’ve heard some squeaks about that, but haven’t taken the time to research it yet …. it’s all very interesting. This “appropriation” meme is silly to the core. That’s the thing I like about science ….. it’s the best data we’ve got until something new is discovered, and the scientific method is designed to question EVERYTHING! The only “appropriation” being done, is by people that think they actually own everything about a language, natural geological object or something like that. If they want to play that game, we can go back far enough to take all their silly stuff away from them, and give it back to those that “owned” it before them …… because chances are that it was “owned” by someone else in the grander scheme of things.This BS started as soon as there were more than one amoeba.

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