Barbie represents an aspiration to an ideal and also a never-ending mutability. Barbie is the perfect woman, and she is also grotesque, plasticized hyperreality, presenting a femininity exaggerated to the point of caricature. Barbie’s marketplace success, combined with (and likely related to) her overlapping and contradictory meanings, also allow her to embody some key exceptions to copyright and trademark law. Though Mattel’s lawsuits were not responsible for the initial recognition of those exceptions, they illuminate key principles and contrasts in American law. Mattel attempted to use both copyright and trademark to control the meaning of Barbie, reflecting a trend towards such overlapping claims. In order to ensure that their combined scope is no greater than the sum of their parts, both trademark and copyright defenses ought to be considered together. The Barbie cases highlight the problem that overlaps between the two regimes can challenge the very idea of IP boundaries, unless robust defenses exist against overclaiming.
Rebecca Tushnet, Make Me Walk, Make Me Talk, Do Whatever You Please: Barbie and Exceptions, INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY AT THE EDGE, (Rochelle Dreyfuss & Jane Ginsburg eds., forthcoming 2013)
Scholarly Commons Citation
Tushnet, Rebecca, "Make Me Walk, Make Me Talk, Do Whatever You Please: Barbie and Exceptions" (2013). Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works. Paper 1228.