Tuesday, May 30, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Mattel Reasserts Rights to CEO Barbie’s Head

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Mattel revived a decade-old legal battle with a Chinese toymaker over the rights to CEO Barbie's head.

Mattel sued Excite, of Hong Kong, and its Texas-based affiliate on New Year's Eve in Federal Court last week, on copyright, trademark, misappropriation unjust enrichment claims.

Mattel claims Excite violated a court order barring it from misappropriating a design used on millions of dolls and licensed Barbie products.

El Segundo-based Mattel sued Excite in 2005, accusing it of "infringing, diluting and otherwise misappropriating Mattel's intellectual property," and the companies settled that year and Excite was enjoined from infringing on Mattel's intellectual property rights, Mattel says.

However, "Despite their actual knowledge of Mattel's rights and despite the agreement and the injunction prohibiting further misappropriation by defendants, defendants have sold, and are continuing to sell, dolls that use heads which are copies of Mattel's CEO Barbie doll head," the lawsuit states.

Mattel says the infringement is "willful," deprives it of "hard-earned good will" and is "deceiving the consuming public."

Mattel calls the CEO Barbie's head one of its most valuable intellectual properties. It is derived from an earlier Barbie head called "Neptune's daughter," created in the early 1990s.

The Neptune design is also known as the "Mackie" doll's head, after fashion designer Bob Mackie, who created a Barbie line of clothing and accessories.

Another incarnation of the Neptune head featured a smiling face and became known within company circles as the CEO Barbie head or "Smiling Mackie."

Since it first appeared on shelves almost 17 years ago, the CEO Barbie head has appeared atop tens of millions of dolls, Mattel says, including a best-selling line of "Swan Lake" Barbies. Depictions have appeared in books, magazines and artworks.

Mattel was involved in a long-running legal battle with Bratz dollmaker MGA Entertainment with both sides accusing the other of stealing trade secrets.

It seeks a preliminary and permanent injunction against Excite as well as actual, statutory, and punitive damages and legal costs.

Neither Mattel's lawyer Michael Zeller of Quinn Emanuel nor Excite USA immediately responded to emailed requests for comment.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.