Mattel v. MCA Records


Mattel v. MCA Records
Mattel v. MCA Records
US-CourtOfAppeals-9thCircuit-Seal.svg
United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Argued December 5, 2000
Decided July 24, 2002
Full case name Mattel, Inc. v. MCA Records, Inc.
Citations 296 F.3d 894 (9th Cir. 2002)
Prior history Appeal from C.D. Cal. (28 F.Supp.2d 1120)
Subsequent history Request for certiorari, S.Ct.; denied.
Holding
Barbie Girl is protected as a parody under the trademark doctrine of nominative use and under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Panel membership
Dorothy Nelson, Melvin Brunetti, Alex Kozinski
Case opinions
Majority by Kozinski
Joined by unanimous court

Mattel v. MCA Records, 296 F.3d 894 (9th Cir. 2002), was a series of lawsuits between Mattel and MCA Records that resulted from the 1997 Aqua song, "Barbie Girl". Mattel sued the band, saying they violated the Barbie trademark and turned Barbie into a sex object, referring to her as a "Blonde Bimbo."[1] They alleged the song had violated their copyrights and trademarks of Barbie, and that its lyrics had tarnished the reputation of their trademark and impinged on their marketing plan. Aqua claimed that Mattel injected their own meanings into the song's lyrics and MCA Records was not about to let their hit single be suppressed without a fight. They contested Mattel's claims and countersued for defamation after Mattel had likened MCA to a bank robber.[2]

The lawsuit filed by Mattel was dismissed by the lower courts, and this dismissal was upheld, though Mattel took their case up to the Supreme Court of the United States (Mattel's appeal was later rejected). In 2002, Judge Alex Kozinski ruled the song was protected as a parody under the trademark doctrine of nominative use and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. He also threw out the defamation lawsuit that Aqua's record company filed against Mattel. Kozinski concluded his ruling by saying, "The parties are advised to chill."[3][4] The case was dismissed, and in the process, it garnered lots of media attention for the song and the band.

Earlier, in February 2001, a court ruled that an American artist Tom Forsythe was within his rights to use Barbie dolls in his work. Some of Tom Forsythe's photographs depicted the blonde in sexually compromising positions.[4] A court had ruled on that occasion too that parody of Barbie was an acceptable activity.

Response

This controversy was used by journalist Naomi Klein to make a political point in her book No Logo, where she stated that the monopolies created by copyrights and trademarks are unfairly and differently enforced based on the legal budgets of the conflicting parties and their ability to defend their expressions by hiring lawyers.

Judge Alex Kozinski, writing for the panel, opened the opinion by saying:

If this were a sci-fi melodrama, it might be called Speech-Zilla meets Trademark Kong.[3]

Despite the lawsuit, Mattel released a promotional music video of the song (with modified lyrics) on the official Barbie web site in 2009,[5][6] as part of a new marketing strategy brought in to revive sales.[7] In addition, recent Barbie product commercials have used modified lyrics to the tune of the original song.

References


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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Barbie Girl — Infobox Single Name = Barbie Girl Artist = Aqua from Album = Aquarium Genre = Pop, Dance pop, Eurodance Released = Flagicon|United States September 1997 Flagicon|United Kingdom September 1997 Flagicon|Europe June 1997 Recorded = 1997 Format = 12… …   Wikipedia

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