Intellectual Property Insights from Fishman Stewart PLLC
Newsletter – Volume 23, Issue 17
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Innovating Barbie: Patents on the Plastic Fashionista
By: Norm K. Freda
The recently released Barbie movie has taken the world by storm, grossing $350 million in the US and $774.5 million worldwide in just ten days. Before Barbie danced her way onto the silver screen, however, she graced the pages of less popular media – the Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office, a weekly journal that publishes select portions of patents issued that week.
As the saying goes, you must learn to walk before you can run. Barbie took that saying a step further, or rather a step backward, as she would first need to learn how to stand. Early on, the Barbie doll had trouble standing upright on her own since she wore high heels and stood on her tiptoes. The first Barbie patent filed in 1959, US 3,009,284, sought to address this problem. This patent describes a doll stand that supports a Barbie doll in “a balanced, realistic position.” The stand includes a platform with two pins that are inserted into bores in the Barbie doll’s feet and a stand with a pair of hooks that support the doll’s underarms.
Once she was able to stand on her own, Barbie became a bit more mobile and posable. A US patent, US 3,277,601, granted in 1966 discloses a Barbie doll with “life-like” limbs that are “adapted to reproduce the natural movements and contours of a human limb and yet maintain a selected position.” The doll’s legs each have an internal support structure with a thigh shaft and a shin shaft that are pivotably connected to one another to provide the doll with functional knees. US 3,628,282 built on this concept adding a variety of different joints to provide the Barbie doll with functional shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, and ankles and to enable the doll’s head to turn and tilt without creating a gap.
Barbie’s Dreamhouse has even appeared in the Official Gazette. The second iteration of Barbie’s dreamhouse, the subject of US 3,363,360, was foldable into a suitcase-style package with a carrying handle for convenient storage and travel. Complete with a living room, bedroom, kitchen, patio, slidable patio door, an open-and-close closet, and working cabinet doors, Barbie’s dreamhouse was truly a marvel. Some may not feel it’s quite a ‘dreamhouse’ though due to its cardboard construction.
From Official Gazette patents to her signature shade of pink flooding the box office, Barbie has been a smashing success.
Norman K. Freda is an attorney at Fishman Stewart and practices in the fields of patent, trademark, copyright law, and litigation. He holds a BS degree in Applied Engineering Sciences from Michigan State University. Check out his bio.
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