Canada

Toy giant tied up in knots over Barbie shop

Barbie's Shop, a Calgary clothing store selling leather and latex, has been order by toy-maker Mattel to drop its doll's name.

The company that makes Barbie says a Calgary shop selling plaid bondage skirts and corsets can't use the doll's name – even though it's also the name of the store's owner.

Mattel's lawyers have notified Barbie Anderson that she has to change her store's name, saying it owns the worldwide rights to the Barbie trademark.

Barbie's Shop sells custom clothing, including leather and latex outfits.

"The tops are meant for the girls that are going to the bar tonight, things that are sexy to wear right now," said Anderson, who has sold custom clothes in the city for 14 years. "We supply the greatest amount of latex in Western Canada."

Mattel and Anderson also share an almost identical website address: the store's is barbiesshop.com, while the doll's – which includes fashion tips and games – is barbieshop.com.

Anderson said she wasn't trying to capitalize on the popular doll when she named her shop four years ago; she simply used her own name and the web domain name was available.

"Like, if my name was Linda, then I would have said, 'Oh, I'm trying to be like the doll.' No, this is my name. My driver's licence, my passport, my business licence – everything is Barbie and has been since I was six years, seven years old," she said.

University of Calgary business law professor Peter Bowal said large corporations often dedicate entire departments to protecting their brand names.

"They take a policy fairly strictly that they are going to enforce their brand, and it doesn't matter who – whether it's a big company or a small company – they have to do it," he said.

"It's very hard to predict how one case would go, but they do have to strike that balance between the use of your own name and another company using a name they have built some goodwill around."

In the past, Mattel sued a California artist who used the doll in a series of photographs he said critiqued the objectification of women. The toy giant also sued the Danish group Aqua over its song Barbie Girl, saying it tied sexual themes to the doll.

The company lost both lawsuits.

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