Kenyans' anger about Disney's use of 'Hakuna Matata' raises trademark questions

Kenyans have expressed unhappiness with the Walt Disney Company registering the term "Hakuna Matata" for its Lion King merchandise.

Some newspapers went as far as to accuse the company of stealing from Kenyan culture by claiming ownership of the phrase.

But when can one actually register a trademark for sayings and expressions that have been around for a long time?

Mariette Du Plessis, a partner at Adams & Adams says that the phrase been used by Disney since 1994 and was trademarked by the company in the United States. She was unable to clarify whether the phrase could be used by Kenyan companies.

She says most brands use a trademark in order to make their brands stand out from the rest.

It is really to express the emotion behind the brand and for consumers to understand more of what that brand stands for.

Mariette Du Plessis, partner at Adams & Adams

To hear the rest of the conversation on trademarks, listen below:


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