Sunday Song Lyric:
I heard this morning on NPR that today is Barbie's birthday. The popular Mattel doll made its debut on March 9, 1959 at the American International Toy Fair in New York. The doll has prompted controversy from the beginning, and is a frequent subject of parodies.

In 1997, Danish pop group Aqua released the chart-topping single "Barbie Girl." The song was easily Aqua's biggest hit, but is also a very annoying song, at least according to Rolling Stone. Here's the chorus:

I'm a Barbie girl in the Barbie world
Life in plastic, it's fantastic
You can brush my hair, undress me everywhere
Imagination, life is your creation.
The full lyrics are here.

Mattel did not think too much of the song. Arguing it portrayed the toy icon as a "bimbo," Mattel sued for copyright and trademark infringement. The suit was ultimately unsuccessful however. On appeal, in Mattel v. MCA, Judge Alex Kozinski found against Mattel, and advised the parties "to chill."

It's a classic opinion, but the first thing I notice as I open the file is that it didn't issue until almost 18 months after the argument... anyone have any idea why that is?
3.9.2008 5:00pm
I was greatly disappointed to find that my IP textbook (by Merges, Menell, and Lemley) leaves out that portion of the opinion. What the editors' motive was, I cannot guess. Perhaps that learning isn't supposed to be fun, or they didn't want to encourage Kozinski to keep writing like that (as though the rest of the opinion is dry and boring). Alas.
3.9.2008 5:20pm
Barely remember the song, but the lyrics remind me of:

Her neon mouth with the blinking soft smile
Is nothing but an electric sign
You could say she has an individual style
She's part of a colorful time

Super-sealed lady, chrome-color clothes
You wear 'cause you have no other
But I suppose no one knows
You're my plastic fantastic lover

Your rattlin' cough never shuts off
Is nothin' but a used machine
Your aluminum finish, slightly diminished
Is the best I ever have seen

Cosmetic baby plugged into me
And never ever find another
And I realize no one's wise
To my plastic fantastic lover

The electrical dust is starting to rust
Her trapezoid thermometer taste
All the red tape is mechanical rape
Of the TV program waste

Data control and IBM
Science is mankind's brother
But all I see is drainin' me
On my plastic fantastic lover
3.9.2008 5:32pm
Crane (mail):
"Oreo Barbie" is hilarious on so many levels. When I was a child, it would never have occurred to me to combine my dolls with snack food (except when deliberately making a mess). But I knew quite well what it meant to call a black person "Oreo".
3.9.2008 6:42pm
Sean M:
UW2L, presumably it was because that part of the opinion was about defamation rather than IP law.

But seeing as that portion was a page or less, I agree, they should have left it.
3.9.2008 6:46pm
Bored Lawyer:
As an IP lawyer myself, I must say my gut reaction is that Mattel got off WAY too easily. I would have advised Mattel that this case is a sure loser. There should have been severe sanctions for bringing the case. Neither trademark rights nor copyrights protect from the type of critical lampooning which the song conveys.

Mattel has made many millions over nearly half a century from Barbie -- a cultural icon. When you creat that succesful a cultural icon, you had better expect some criticism -- and not only the dry, boring academic kind, but the witty lampoon which this song is.
3.9.2008 10:31pm
Annoying? Au contraire, mon vieux. "Barbie Girl" epitomizes the Romanticism prefigured in such works as Schubert's string quartet "Der Tod und das Mädchen".

Just sayin'.
3.9.2008 10:39pm
Anonymous Hoosier:
Note that the Aqua song is also a "frequent subject of parodies." See, e.g., "Ugly Girl", "College Girl", and Don Surber's parody in his blog... today:
3.10.2008 12:19am
PDXLawyer (mail):
I agree 100% with Bored Lawyer. Clients usually have no way of telling whether their lawyer's advice is sound, except to take it and see. Judges who don't call parties on bringing frivolous claims encourage more such frivolous claims. There's something to be said for giving the little guy the benefit of the doubt. There's no reason to go easy on big corporations represented by major firms.
3.10.2008 2:14am
I agree with Bored Lawyer that Mattel got off too easy, the Judge should have sanctioned them for this. What were they thinking? Had they won it would have been appealed right to SCOTUS for their immediate reversal.
3.10.2008 2:29am
yankev (mail):

[W]e doubt that even so eminent a composer as plaintiff Irving Berlin should be permitted to claim a property interest in iambic pentameter.

Irving BERLIN et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. E. C. PUBLICATIONS, INC., et al., Defendants-Appellees. — 329 F.2d 541, (2d Cir. 1964)
3.11.2008 5:02pm