(Orange, Texas)

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May 9, 2013

Social media eyed 'Day of the Dead' trademark fail


When Lalo Alcaraz saw a tweet this week that Disney was seeking to trademark "Dia de los Muertos," the name of the traditional "Day of the Dead" celebrated by millions in Mexico and the U.S., the Los Angeles-based cartoonist immediately pressed "retweet."

The humorist then sent out a series of satirical social media posts warning that Disney was out to trademark dead Latino relatives. He also created a cartoon, which quickly went viral, of a skeletal Godzilla-sized Mickey Mouse destroying a city. The words on top of the monster read: "It's coming to trademark your cultura (culture)."

Those tweets, along with tens of thousands of others similar social media posts, sparked Disney Enterprises Inc. into announcing that the company was withdrawing a "Dia de los Muertos" trademark request it made on May 1 to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Disney had hoped to secure name rights for merchandise such as snack foods and Christmas ornaments as it partners with Pixar Animation Studios Inc. to create an animated movie inspired by the holiday.

"Disney's trademark filing was intended to protect any potential title for our film and related activities," a company statement said. "It has since been determined that the title of the film will change and therefore we are withdrawing our trademark filing."

But the anger and ridicule expressed on social media largely by Latinos are being credited with the company's retreat by Tuesday as word began to spread on Twitter and Facebook. Within hours, online petitions were created and the organizers started openly discussing plans to boycott whatever movie or products would be linked to the trademark request.

Critics charged that Disney, or any other corporation, for that matter, had no right to trademark a cultural holiday like November's Day of the Dead. Not only was the move insensitive, critics said that trademarking the popular holiday put thousands of businesses that made products linked to the day at risk.

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