No, seriously

9 May

Quick quiz: What is Dia de los Muertos?

  1. a “centuries-old holiday, with roots in indigenous Aztec culture” that is observed throughout the world(,0,5334483.story?fb_action_ids=10200509346030641&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_source=other_multiline&action_object_map={“10200509346030641”:481461728592968}&action_type_map={“10200509346030641″:”og.likes”}&action_ref_map=[]).
  2. an upcoming Pixar film

Answer: Both of the above.

In preparation for the film’s release, Pixar filed to trademark “Dia de los Muertos” to protect the profits it envisioned from making plastic trinkets and sugar-coated snacks.

Oh yes, they did.

But oh no, they couldn’t.

The day after news broke of Pixar’s filing, a petition to stop Pixar hit the internet. And Pixar “has since been determined that the title of the film will change and therefore we are withdrawing our trademark filing.”

When I heard this story on NPR yesterday, a commentator made the comparison that trying to trademark Dia de los Muertos was like trying to trademark Mickey Mouse.


I’m trying and failing to find the “yes, and…” here. Because it’s not at all like trying to trademark Mickey Mouse (which is probably trademarked). It’s like trying to trademark Thanksgiving, and in the process, trademarking dinner with family and watching football in a food coma. It’s trying to trademark culture and tradition.

Now what would possess Pixar to try to do that? I suspect that in addition to being their standard procedure for business (which raises the question, has Pixar trademarked the word and concept of “Up”?), they just didn’t realize that other people already “own” Dia de los Muertos. That the rights to Dia de los Muertos are everyone’s.

And beyond retracting their ludicrous trademark filing, the opportunity for Pixar here is to figure out what went off the rails (groupthink, anyone? failing to take diverse perspectives because of a perceived homogeneity, and baseline assumptions that go unchallenged?) and how to be as visionary in their business practices as they are in their art.

P.S. Apparently, Pixar is changing the name of their film. To something they can trademark.

One Response to “No, seriously”

  1. Renee Otero May 9, 2013 at 9:11 pm #

    People don’t “own” Dia de los Muertos. People, Mexican people (and now other) live it and have longer than Pixar or Disney have existed.

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