Barbie-Life in Plastic, IP Protections are Fantastic

I recently heard that Barbie got a diversity make-over but it seems she has been getting a makeover since her first appearance March of 1959 (March 9th is considered her birthday just so you know). During the 57 years of her existence, Barbie has had every job in every industry and has been the subject of love and controversy. Many note that if she were a real woman her dimensions would cause her to both look odd and trip incessantly. Some are pleased with her ambition but get angered that she is still all about flash and beach houses. It seems the one consistent thing about her is her staying power.

A few months ago, NPR did a story about Mattel’s attempt to once again re-envision her. Many lauded the new Barbie and Barbie’s friend choices. Some however remarked that making a larger Barbie may cause a child to think it’s ok to not worry about the health effects of obesity. Yep, as mentioned –there is no pleasing everyone. I personally, think the changes are rather positive.

Barbie all started (came to light, was born, or however else we can describe her existence) when Ruth Handler noticed her daughter giving her paper dolls adult jobs and roles. Actual dolls that she did have didn’t have adult-bodies either. Her husband Elliot, a co-founder of Mattel and Mattel’s directors didn’t really think highly of Ruth’s adult-doll for kids, invention idea.

In 1956, on a trip to Europe, Ruth saw a German doll called ‘Bild Lilli’ that was an adult doll based on a comic strip character. It was first sold to adults but a year prior became a popular children’s toy.

Long story short, Ruth went back to Mattel and showed them some of these dolls and expressed that if Germany could make something like this, so could America. Mattel agreed and started making dolls that were different, but similar. Mattel bought the company that made the German Lilli doll, stopped making the doll and made Barbie instead, and licensed out the use of Lilli’s design to other companies for fees.

Louis Marx and Company sued Mattel in March 1961. After licensing Lilli, they claimed that Mattel had “infringed on Greiner & Hausser’s patent for Bild-Lilli’s hip joint, and also claimed that Barbie was “a direct take-off and copy” of Bild-Lilli. The company additionally claimed that Mattel “falsely and misleadingly represented itself as having originated the design”. Mattel counter-claimed and the case was settled out of court in 1963. In 1964, Mattel bought Greiner & Hausser’s copyright and patent rights for the Bild-Lilli doll for $21,600.[5 b

There have been several other issues, settlements, controversies, PR nightmares, lawsuits, and some combination of all of these. Now we know why Barbie and Ken spend time at the beach relaxing after a stressful year. One of the most recent and notable IP controversies started in the year 2000 when Carter Bryant, a Mattel Design Team employee pitched his idea for “Bratz” dolls to MGA (a competing toy company). Because the company loved the idea and gave Bryant a contract, he quickly after signing quit his position with Mattel.

If you have more time and/or interest, you can read this entire story at:

Essentially numerous lawsuits occurred after Bratz became extremely popular on after a short time on the market.

“The jury awarded damages of $20 million against MGA and $10 million against Larian [Chief CEO of MGA] in each of three causes of action — intentional interference with contractual relations, aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty, and aiding and abetting breach of the duty of loyalty.

They also found that MGA owed Mattel $6 million for copyright infringement, while Larian owed $3 million in distributions he’d received from Bratz-related sales, and MGA Hong Kong owed $1 million.”

All in all it’s important to do intellectual property searches, own and protect intellectual property rights, and to defend as necessary, and infringements. Call a gentleman or doll at Mohr IP Law today.

Just for you and the enjoyment or non-enjoyment of your co-workers-The Aqua “Barbie” song:

Barbie Patent





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