The valley of the dolls: Brand protection and artistic parody

Rimmer, Matthew (2004) The valley of the dolls: Brand protection and artistic parody. Australian Intellectual Property Law Bulletin, 16(10), pp. 160-163.

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In the case of Mattel Inc v Walking Mountain Productions, the toy doll manufacturer Mattel sought to prohibit a Utah photographer called Thomas Forsythe from producing and selling a series of 78 photographs entitled "Food Chain Barbie". The work had strong social and political overtones. The artist said that he chose to parody Barbie in his photographs because he wanted to challenge the beauty myth and the objectification of women. He observed: "Barbie is the most enduring of those products that feed on the insecurities of our beauty and perfection-obsessed consumer culture."

The company Mattel argued that the photographs infringed its copyrights, trade marks, and trade dress. It was concerned that the artistic works would erode the brand of Barbie by wrongfully sexualising its blonde paragon of womanhood. However, Lew J of the Central District Court of California granted summary judgment for the photographer. The Court of Appeals upheld this verdict. Pregerson J held that the use of the manufacturer's copyrighted doll in parodic photographs constituted a fair use of copyright works. His Honour held that the use of manufacturer's "Barbie" mark and trade dress did not amount to trade mark infringement or dilution.

This article provides a case commentary upon the Court of Appeals decision in Mattel Inc v Walking Mountain Productions, and its wider ramifications for the treatment of artistic parody under copyright law and trade mark law. It contends that the decision highlights the need for reform in Australian jurisprudence and legislation in respect of artistic parody.

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ID Code: 86814
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: No
Keywords: Intellectual Property and Innovation Law Research Group
ISSN: 1035-1353
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Current > Schools > School of Law
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2004 Lexis Nexis
Deposited On: 25 Sep 2015 03:46
Last Modified: 25 Sep 2015 03:48

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