Since the introduction of Barbie in 1959, it has become an iconic symbol that has withstood the test of time and sustained its popularity. If you’ve gone to a store, restaurant, left your house, opened any type of social media, or used Google, you’re well aware that Barbie is just as popular today as she was 70 years ago. The Barbie logo and Barbie pink are everywhere and anywhere for the new Barbie movie. How has Barbie been able to thrive and exclusively keep her appeal for so long?
Behind Barbie and her success is a web of trademark rights and protections in place to safeguard the brand’s identity, market position and value. Mattel owns numerous register trademarks in relation to the Barbie brand including the Barbie name, Barbie dolls image and various Barbie themed logos. “Barbie” is a word mark which exclusively identifies the Barbie brand and its products and prevents competitors from using the name “Barbie” to market comparable products. They also have design marks registered to protect the doll’s unique appearance since the distinctive look of the doll is so crucial to the brand and its success. The signature Barbie logo is another essential trademark, solidifying the Barbie brand identity and distinguishing it from other brands.
Although they do not have a trademark registration for the exact pink color hue such as other companies own their distinctive color, like Tiffany’s blue, they have maintained the specific Pantone hue for use on products in its immediate orbit through use of the distinctive mark. Mattel is known to be one of the most highly litigious corporations, they will do anything within their legal enforcements to protect their Barbie girl. With routine and diligent policing of their brands, if there is anything out there similar enough that they find it to be infringing, they will be taking action. Barbie Pink is regarded as one of the most ferociously guarded trade dress attributes in the universe by many familiar with the brand’s legal strategies in the industry¹. Anyone on the market with a product deemed by Mattel to infringe on that will be facing a cease and desist or litigation likely sooner rather than later.
Current Popularity and Implications
The current, and substantial number, of Barbie-related collaborations flows into many markets. You can find Barbie themed luggage, Barbie themed apparel, and even Barbie themed Burger King meal. This was a carefully thought through plan by Mattel, who started approaching brands about collaborations up to 18 months in advance from the movie premiere. They succeeded – the market is filled with Barbie products from left to right. However, several brands have tried to capitalize off the current popularity of Barbie by running campaigns without having official licensing permissions from Mattel. It will be interesting to watch how Mattel reacts to this since these campaigns will be short lived since they are capitalizing off the movie and are not long term, but several companies have received cease and desist letters already. Mattel also very specifically chooses what brands they would partner with to ensure the brand integrity is preserved and advanced by these partnerships. Barbie has seemingly overcome any negative effects of brand oversaturation and over-extension which some brands can face when having many related products outside their original market.
The success and enduring popularity of Barbie is a testament to the strength trademark rights and protections can preserve. As long as it remains protected and cherished Barbie will continue to inspire children worldwide for years to come and Barbie pink won’t be going anywhere.