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Allegations of cultural appropriation trademark shows perils

| May 26, 2021 | Trademarks

As readers of this blog know, trademark issues are complicated. However, one thing that many may not realize is that choosing what and if to trademark something can also be a complicated question because just because a company can trademark something, does not mean that company should trademark this. This was shown when Disney tried to trademark the name of a Mexican holiday, and this is what British fashion brand, Timbuktu, is now facing for trademarking the term, “Yoruba.”

Accusations of cultural appropriation

Timbuktu is a British clothing retailer from northern England, and while British trademark law is different than U.S. trademark law, the social implications can cross the ocean. Specifically, the retailer is under fire for their trademark of the term, “Yoruba,” which is being labeled as cultural appropriation because that is the name of an ethnic group in west Africa.


Yoruba is the name of an ethnic group (a tribe) in west Africa. Indeed, the largest ethnic group in western Arica. And, the group makes up about a sixth of Nigeria’s population. It also refers to that tribe’s tribal language, which is spoken by millions of people throughout the world. As a result, members of the tribe across the world have said the company’s trademark is cultural appropriate, and they are questioning the British government’s approval of the company’s trademark.

Not a new trademark

The trademark was actually approved in 2015. Though, it came to light when Timbuktu attempted to sue a Yoruba business and business owner of their brand, “Yoruba Stars.” After the backlash, Timbuktu withdrew heir complaint.

What we can learn

When thinking about doing a trademark, call a Minneapolis, Minnesota, attorney immediately. They can help with all types of trademark issues (creation, protection, benefits, etc.).

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