Mohan and Gupta, ‘Litigating Barbie: Trade Mark Infringement, Parody and Free Speech’

In the contemporary marketplace, trade marks are not mere monikers of origin. While often regarded as commercial symbols, trade marks sometimes become part of the commonplace vocabulary and are indelibly linked to expressing ideas and thoughts. In recent years, the dichotomy of expansive protection offered through the trade mark law and use of marks as part of expressive vocabulary has become increasingly controversial. One such trade mark which has amassed immense communicative strength is Mattel Inc’s Barbie. The mark has assumed an enduring prominence in contemporary language and has assumed the status of a cultural icon. The present study examines the regulation of expressive secondary uses of trade marks by employing Barbie as a case study. Comparatively analysing the treatment of the Barbie mark in India, the USA, and Canada, the authors underline an imperative need to adopt a legislative framework to protect the expressive and artistic secondary use of popular trade marks.

MP, Ram Mohan and Gupta, Aditya, Litigating Barbie: Trade Mark Infringement, Parody and Free Speech (July 15, 2022). Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad Working Paper (July 2022).

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