Update: Since the publication of this post, Disney has canceled its applications for trademarks on Dia de los Muertos.
In 10 applications filed May 1 through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Disney Enterprises Inc. is attempting to trademark the phrase "Dia de los Muertos."
If successful, the corporation would be able to go after individual companies who attempt to use "Dia de los Muertos" for profit in the areas of education and entertainment, goods and services, apparel, toys, and food items.
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But unless the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is ready to give up the trademark on similar religious and popular worldwide holidays, including Christmas, Easter, Hanukkah, Yom Kippur, Kwanzaa, and Ramadan, you needn't hold your breath.
At CinemaCon on April 24, 2012, Disney/Pixar announced that director Lee Unkrich, producer Darla K. Anderson, and the team behind Toy Story 3 would be working on "The Untitled Pixar Movie About Dia de los Muertos" (working title) that, according to Disney is a "wholly original Pixar Animation Studios film that delves into the vibrant holiday of Día de los Muertos."
A trademark would allow Disney to hawk Dia de los Muertos merch and toys promoting the film -- and would also enable to company to sue anyone who also used the phrase/holiday name on their product for profit.
But the application process isn't simple. Once an application is submitted, it is assigned to an examiner and is reviewed within 4 to 5 months. The examiner can reject the trademark request for minor or substantive issues (including, say, the existence of a national, age-old religious holiday with the same name that's celebrated by the Mexican culture to honor family members who have died).
If somehow approved by the examiner, the trademark is published in the Trademark Gazette three to four months later for opposition (say, by a country with a religious holiday of the same name), which would be handled similarly to litigation.
Disney's trademark -- if approved -- would apply to:
*"A standard character mark" *For "Fruit preserves; fruit-based snack foods; eggs; jams; jellies; potato chips; nuts; dairy products; meat; poultry; fruits; vegetables; prepared or packaged meals consisting primarily of meat, fish, poultry or vegetables" *For "Toys, games and playthings; gymnastic and sporting articles (except clothing); hand-held units for playing electronic games for use with or without an external display screen or monitor; Christmas stockings; Christmas tree ornaments and decorations; snow globes" *For "Clothing, footwear and headwear" *For "Bags; backpacks; calling card cases; coin purses; fanny packs; key cases; key chains; luggage; luggage tags; purses; umbrellas; wallets" *For "Paper and paper articles; cardboard and cardboard articles; printed matter; publications; books; photographs; portraits; paintings; stationery; office and school supplies" *For "Clocks; jewelry; jewelry boxes; jewelry cases; key rings of precious metal; coins; watches; watch bands" *For "Apparatus for recording, transmission or reproduction of sound or images; audio books; audio recordings; audio and visual recordings; video game software; computer programs and software; consumer electronics and accessories therefor; eyeglasses and sunglasses and accessories therefor; binoculars; decorative magnets; graduated rulers" *For "Cosmetics; dentifrices; non-medicated toiletries; fragrances; perfumes" *Confectionery and chewing gum; breakfast cereals and preparations made from cereals; cereal bars; bread; muffins; muffin bars; pastry; waffles; pancakes; cookies; crackers; biscuits; popcorn; corn chips; pretzels; puddings; coffee; tea; cocoa; sugar; rice; flour; ices; ice; honey; condiments; sauces; spices; pizza; pasta and noodles; macaroni and cheese; frozen meals consisting primarily of pasta or rice; staple foods
Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is an annual holiday celebrated on November 1 and 2 that's been traced back to indigenous celebrations and an Aztec festival. Celebrations like Dia de los Muertos are currently observed in Brazil, Spain, and Europe. Those who celebrate build altars celebrating the lives of dead family members with flowers, favorite foods and the now very popular sugar skulls.