The Swahili phrase, of course, is the center of the classic Lion King soundtrack cut of the same name. In the now-viral petition to the Walt Disney Company, Shelton Mpala argues that the practice of trademarking something one did not invent should not be tolerated.
"While we respect Disney as an entertainment institution responsible for creating many of our childhood memories, the decision to trademark 'Hakuna Matata' is predicated purely on greed and is an insult not only the spirit of the Swahili people but also, Africa as a whole," Mpala said. "The movie is set in Africa and the characters have African names which further makes the decision to implement the trademark a perplexing one."
Disney trademarked "Hakuna Matata" (which, as the song makes clear, roughly translates to "no worries") back in 1994, i.e. the same year the original animated classic hit theaters. With Disney set to drop a reboot next year, the petition has gained traction on social media. Particularly, it seems, in light of the recently released teaser trailer that promptly amassed a predictably gargantuan amount of views.
So far, Disney has not responded to the petition. In a statement to CNN Wednesday, Kenyan intellectual property and entertainment attorney Liz Lenjo argued Disney had "not stolen" the phrase. "East Africans or whoever speaks Swahili worldwide are not restricted from using the phrase," Lenjo said. The fresh blowback, she further argued, shows a "misunderstanding" of the legalities surrounding intellectual property.