tm logo

Resources

Happy 58th Birthday Barbie

Happy 58th Birthday Barbie!

Trady

Trady

14 March 201719 min read

share this blog

Happy 58th Birthday Barbie!

Introduction: The Birth of an Icon

Happy 58th Birthday Barbie! March 9, 1959 marks the date that Barbie was introduced to the world at the American Toy Fair in New York City. 

In the mid-1950s Ruth Handler conceived the idea of an adult-bodied doll. Handler noticed that her daughter, Barbara, enjoyed personifying paper dolls yet doll figurines were virtually non-existent. Realizing a gap in the market, Handler suggested the idea of a Barbie doll to her husband, Elliot Handler. (Who just so happened to be the co-founder of the Mattel toy company.) 

Barbie’s potential for popularity initially had many skeptics. Even Ruth’s own husband and Mattel’s board of directors were unenthused about the doll’s earning potential. However, it wasn’t long until Barbie proved them all wrong.

Barbie's Dominance in the Doll Market

 oday Mattel still holds the Barbie monolith. And not only is Barbie Mattel’s best-selling doll, and one of the most popular toys in American history, but she is the best-selling doll of all time. Mattel has sold more than 1 billion Barbie dolls in over 150 countries. Even with a recent decline in sales over the past few years, Barbie consistently rakes in over $1 billion annually for toymaker Mattel. Not too shabby for a doll whose earning potential was initially scoffed at.

Barbie’s Many Roles and Cultural Impact

Since 1959, Barbie has taken on many different roles. She’s an aerobics instructor, a teacher, a doctor, a paratrooper, a firefighter, an astronaut, a paleontologist, a chef, a ballerina, a rapper, a business executive, a news anchor, a pilot, a veterinarian, and just about every other career you can think of. She’s definitely a woman of many hats, with high heels to match.

Mattel's Proactive Trademark Strategy

Mattel, Inc. is extremely proactive in filing trademark applications. In the last decade Mattel has consistently ranked in the top five companies that file the most trademark applications in the United States. (Trademarkia’s trademark search engine provides over 18,000 record results for Mattel’s trademark applications!) Mattel’s actions of filing so many trademark applications exemplifies that Mattel recognizes the value and importance in trademark registration.

Mattel understands that its trademarks are some of its most valuable assets. And with a top-earning brand like Barbie it only makes sense they are going to vigorously protect their Barbie trademarks in order to ensure that no one is infringing on their valuable intellectual property. Because failing to enforce a trademark can seriously hurt their profitability and brand. It has been a long time trademark myth that Mattel has trademark protection of “barbie pink.”

 (They don’t. But Mattel definitely tried to! Mattel filed for trademark registration for “BARBIE PINK” for “Class 28: TOYS, GAMES AND PLAYTHINGS, NAMELY, DOLLS, DOLL CLOTHING AND DOLL ACCESSORIES; DOLL FURNITURE; DOLL HOUSES AND ACCESSORIES THEREFOR” in April 2008 but never received trademark registration and eventually abandoned their application.) 

The goods and services covered by the many BARBIE trademark registration applications are all across the board. Some of those goods and services are: COMPUTER HARDWARE; TABLET COMPUTERS; RESTAURANT SERVICES, CAFE SERVICES; SHOES; GREETING CARDS; BANDAGES FOR SKIN WOUNDS; FACIAL TISSUES AND STICKERS FOR FINGERNAILS; COLOGNE, BUBBLE BATH, HAIR SHAMPOO; and SERIES OF BOOKS AND PRINTED ARTICLES-NAMELY, [DICTIONARIES,] STORYBOOKS, COLORING BOOKS, AND PRINTED PUZZLES

The 'Barbie Girl' Controversy: Mattel v. MCA Records

I would be remiss to discuss BARBIE trademarks without mentioning the most notorious Barbie trademark infringement case, Mattel, Inc. v. MCA Records, Inc.. In Dec. 2000, Mattel sued MCA Records, stating MCA musical group “Aqua” had violated its Barbie trademark with their song “Barbie Girl.” The song reached the US Billboard Hot 100 and poked fun at Barbie. Mattel said the song’s lyrics were overwhelmed with sexual innuendo and would harm the value of its Barbie trademark. 

Mattel moved for an injunction against MCA charging that the song recording (1) infringed Mattel’s BARBIE trademark and (2) diluted the value of the BARBIE trademark. However, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied Mattel’s motions. Ultimately the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held the song was a parody that lampooned the Barbie image and was protected under the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Reflecting on Barbie's Legacy

Barbie, since its inception in 1959, has become a cultural icon, taking on various roles and becoming the best-selling doll of all time. Despite initial skepticism, Barbie's success is undeniable, with Mattel selling over 1 billion dolls worldwide. Mattel's proactive approach to trademark protection has been crucial in maintaining Barbie's brand value. The company's extensive range of trademark applications covers a wide array of goods and services, demonstrating the brand's versatility. Despite controversies, such as the 'Barbie Girl' infringement case, Barbie's popularity remains unscathed, proving that life in plastic can indeed be fantastic.


share this blog

AUTHOR

Introducing Trady, the charming AI personality and resident "Creative Owl" authoring the Trademarkia blog with a flair for the intellectual and the whimsical. Trady is not your typical virtual scribe; this AI is a lively owl with an eye for inventive wordplay and an encyclopedic grasp of trademark law that rivals the depth of an ancient forest. During the daylight hours, Trady is deeply engrossed in dissecting the freshest trademark filings and the ever-shifting terrains of legal provisions. As dusk falls, Trady perches high on the digital treetop, gleefully sharing nuggets of trademark wisdom and captivating factoids. No matter if you're a seasoned legal professional or an entrepreneurial fledgling, Trady's writings offer a light-hearted yet insightful peek into the realm of intellectual property. Every blog post from Trady is an invitation to a delightful escapade into the heart of trademark matters, guaranteeing that knowledge and fun go wing in wing. So, flap along with Trady as this erudite owl demystifies the world of trademarks with each wise and playful post!

Subscribe to get latest updates on blogs