We have now fully bought into Marvel’s Loki after only three episodes, and Disney is apparently aware that we’d also fully buy any Loki-inspired merch. A new Redbubble copyright dispute is bringing back memories of Disney’s old habits of attempting to trademark properties that aren’t theirs.
In case we forgot, Loki comes from Norse mythology, so there’s been plenty of Loki content before Disney and Marvel took hold of the God of Mischief. And hopefully, there will be plenty of Loki content after he dies for the final time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (if he ever officially dies). So is Disney trying to trademark Loki, the Norse god?
People think that Disney is trying to trademark Loki.
Here’s what happened: One Twitter user, YourBoswell, shared an email sent to him by Redbubble that stated his artwork was removed due to violating "someone’s rights." In this case, they state that Disney did not contact them, but that YourBoswell's artwork was removed based on guidelines from Disney Enterprises, Inc. and that the subject matter in question is “Loki.”
The artwork itself was a “Low Key” logo that could be printed onto T-shirts, similar to a t-shirt Loki wears in the Marvel comics. However, because the subject matter was listed as “Loki,” many Twitter users now think that Disney is trying to trademark the Norse mythological god.
Disney isn’t trying to trademark the Norse Loki, but they do own the rights to their version of Loki.
This is where it gets a little confusing. Disney isn’t trying to trademark the character of Loki in Norse mythology. They couldn't even if they wanted to, because Norse mythology is part of the public domain. That would be like Disney trying to trademark the Buddha.
However, Disney does already own the rights to Loki, the show, as well as their version of the character Loki, both in the Marvel comics and on screen. So while Disney cannot stop anyone from creating their own Loki artwork, they are well within their domain to put a stop to anyone profiting off their iteration of Loki.
This would include Loki’s “Low Key” shirt from the Marvel comic books, which is what the user was trying to sell. Despite this, YourBoswell's most recent tweet claims that Redbubble has reinstated the product in his store.
This wouldn’t be the first time Disney has tried to trademark things in the public domain.
Although it turns out that Disney isn’t trying to trademark Loki, this wouldn’t be the first time Disney has attempted to trademark a piece of the public domain.
Back in 2013, before Coco came out, Disney had reportedly filed an application to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to trademark the phrase, “Día de los Muertos," or "Day of the Dead” as a potential movie title. But isn’t that a Latin and Mexican holiday?
Apparently, Disney was attempting to trademark the title, not the holiday itself, but there was a ton of backlash (and rightfully so). There was even a Change.org petition that went up and garnered over 21,000 signatures.
However, Disney withdrew its application stating it was because they had decided on a different title, although it’s hard to believe the public outrage didn’t play a part in that.
Disney was also successful in trademarking the phrase “Hakuna Matata” for use on t-shirts in 2003, which many people were upset about. “Hakuna matata” is a commonly spoken Swahili phrase that actually does mean “no worries.” Some African scholars have likened this trademark to colonialism and cultural appropriation.
While many of us are aware of Disney’s wide reach, it’s easy to forget its corporate power when enjoying content as funny and thrilling as Loki.
New episodes of Loki drop every Wednesday on Disney Plus.