- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 29, 2004

From combined dispatches

LOS ANGELES — Mattel Inc. must pay more than $1.8 million in legal fees and court costs to a Utah man who incorporated nude Barbie dolls in his artwork, a federal judge has ruled.

The award stems from a lawsuit the El Segundo, Calif., toy maker filed in 1999 against Tom Forsythe of Kanab, Utah, on grounds that his series of photos, “Food Chain Barbie,” infringed on the toy maker’s trademark.

The photos often depicted Barbie dolls placed in sexually provocative positions. One called “Barbie Enchiladas,” shows four Barbie dolls inside a lit oven, wrapped in tortillas and covered with salsa in a casserole dish.

Mattel said the images might hurt its brand and lead consumers to believe that the company, which began selling the doll line in 1959, might be behind the photos.

The company lost its case, and in December, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Mattel’s appeal, saying Mr. Forsythe had a First Amendment right to parody the iconic doll. The panel also said Mattel’s lawsuit “may have been groundless and unreasonable.”

The question of legal fees was sent back to U.S. District Court Judge Ronald S.W. Lew in Los Angeles, who echoed the panel’s statements in his nine-page ruling last week.

Mattel spokeswoman Lisa Marie Bongiovanni said Monday the company had not decided whether to appeal. “Mattel is still very committed to vigorously protecting our intellectual property,” Miss Bongiovanni said. “For us, our trademarks are among our most valuable assets.”

Mr. Forsythe has said he uses Barbies to criticize “the materialistic and gender-oppressive values” he believes the dolls embody.

Also, Mattel announced yesterday that Barbie has a new man in her life — a well-toned Australian surfer dude called Blaine, who is helping her get over her breakup with Ken.

Barbie split from her suitor of 43 years in February, but Mattel had declined to confirm until yesterday that there was a new man in her life.

Blaine will not be arriving at toy stores until August. The surfer doll will be priced around $15.

First marketed in 1959, Barbie is sold in 150 countries; she raked in $3.6 million for Mattel in 2003.

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