Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal


Mattel's Barbie doll is more than just a trademarked toy produced for child consumption-Barbie has entered public discourse and taken on a life of her own as a cultural phenomenon. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has referred to Mattel's Barbie doll as "possibly the most famous toy in history." With this popularity, also comes unwanted attention. She has become an American icon and taken on additional meanings and status at a societal level; attracting the attention of artists, writers, academics, and commentators in a way that is beyond the scope of Mattel's trademark property rights. The tension between Mattel's trademark property rights over its Barbie doll product and the public's right to invoke imagery of Barbie as a popular icon is exemplified by Mattel's trademark litigation tribulations. This Note discusses one of Mattel's most recent trademark disputes, Mattel, Inc. v. Global China Networks, LLC, in the context of the First Amendment and the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act. It reaches the conclusion that Barbie represents a nexus where trademark enforcement infringes upon the public's free speech rights, since Barbie has crossed over into public discourse and taken on additional layers of meaning.

"If this were a sci-fi melodrama, it might be called Speech- Zilla meets Trademark Kong. " - Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski, Mattel, Inc. v. MCA Records, Inc., 296 F.3d 894, 898 (9th Cir. 2002).