22 December 2003

She's Not a Barbie Grrrrl

One must wonder which generates more income: sales of Barbie and associated merchandise, or legal fees on both sides of the v. related to Barbie. As the Ninth Circuit noted today,

Barbie, the ubiquitous doll produced by Mattel, has been a regular visitor to our court.1 This time she brings with her an issue of personal jurisdiction—not over her, but over a German toy company which has questioned her ancestry by asserting that Barbie was a copy of its doll and that Mattel had infringed its patent and other intellectual property rights. The German company, Greiner & Haußer GmbH (“G&H”), previously asserted claims to that effect in a lawsuit filed in federal district court in Los Angeles in 1961, more than 40 years ago. That lawsuit was resolved by a dismissal with prejudice of those and other claims. Today, Barbie generates over $2 billion in wholesale revenues each year, a sum which helps to explain why Barbie comes to visit us so frequently. It presumably also helps to explain why a lawsuit was filed in Germany in May 2001 by G&H, claiming that it had been defrauded by Mattel when it entered into a set of related agreements with Mattel in 1964, shortly after the dismissal of the previous California litigation, and seeking damages in the form of a royalty on every Barbie doll sold since that time.

Mattel, Inc. v. Greiner & Haußer GmbH, No. 02-56272 (9th Cir. Dec. 22, 2003) slip op. at 17979 (footnote omitted).

And, of course, the opinion sends the matter back to the District Court for more proceedings… as meanwhile a somewhat parallel lawsuit proceeds in Germany…