Vote 2020 graphic
Everything you need to know about and expect during
the most important election of our lifetimes

Does This Look Like "Intellectual" Property To You?

Illustration for article titled Does This Look Like Intellectual Property To You?

I'm supposed to be in court in Riverside County, California right now. See, a few years ago I wrote this thing about how the Bratz dolls, the first dolls in the history of slutty-looking dolls to unseat Barbie for slutty looking doll hegemony (and the career ender of numerous highly remunerated Mattel executives), were actually masterminded inside the Mattel design center. Apparently they were scrapped because upper management didn't want to do anything to "cannibalize" their Barbie brand so the idea went nowhere and a doll designer took it to this guy who owned a scrappy little toy company that mostly specialized in competing for third and fourth tier licensing rights — like say, the right to manufacture keychains featuring crude electronic games bedecked in Pokemon logos — and that guy, with the help of a few more designers and a few thousand Shenzhen factory workers, turned the sketches into a multibillion dollar property. Well, Mattel is a litigious company — they were once known to sue Barbie fan clubs for trademark infringement — and when they read my story they apparently launched some sort of investigation and eventually sued the Bratz guys. Last summer I got deposed.


It was no small feat for the Mattel lawyers to track me down, probably because I had so cleverly in the interim changed my common-law name to "Moe," but after numerous false starts they finally convinced me and seven or eight lawyers to show up in a conference room someplace downtown for a few hours of grilling about a story about which I couldn't have ethically provided any information even if I remembered it, which I of course did not. As we left, my lawyer, the in-house counsel of Dow Jones, marveled at the billable hours that had been assembled for our presence alone. It was enough to fund a reality show-worthy bar mitzvah. And they'd been at this case for years!

Today the case is supposed to go to trial and I am apparently, according to an email from the Gawker office manager, to be there, although I am not, because I don't leave my house to buy toilet paper if there is perfectly decent newspaper lying around, and the thing is going down in California. But it's fascinating to read about the internal memos describing the increasingly heated battles between these two dolls: "The House Is On Fire!" one is titled; fixing the problem will require "grenades."


"Complacency will kill us," the company concluded.

But when you live in a country in which a few sketches depicting dolls with stoned eyes and platform shoes and oversized heads vaguely conjuring anorexia is multibillion dollar "intellectual property" whose protection demands numerous eight figure retainers funding whole divisions of preposterously well-educated legal minds and even holds a few multimillion dollar holiday bonuses in the balance, it's hard to feel anything other than "complacency."

Brawl Over Doll Is Heading To Trial

Share This Story

Get our newsletter


@ceejeemcbeegee: Probably because she had the notes a few years ago when she wrote the story but then got rid of them; I know I don't keep my interview notes for longer than a year. I mean, for what? On the one-in-a-million chance you *might* get called? Not worth it.