Barbie, the doll and the IP influencer

Author: Dr. Giovanna Del Bene

“You can be anything” has been Barbie’s motto since 2016, repeated several times even in the Greta Gerwig film that is smashing the box office these weeks and has exploded Barbie-mania worldwide.

The success of this iconic doll (and the current film) is not accidental or simply due to a well-successful marketing operation but has been diligently built over the years by Mattel through a careful strategy of both communication (Barbie was the first toy to have a market strategy based on mass communication through television advertising) and protection and exploitation of its Intellectual Property rights (trademarks, patents, designs, know-how, copyright).

Barbie was born in 1959 in America from an idea of Ruth Hadler, wife of the co-founder of Mattel, who, observing her daughter Barbara (hence the doll’s name) playing with dolls by attributing adult roles to them, sensed that little girls needed an alternative to mother-child play with baby dolls with baby-like features.

Ruth Handler in modeling Barbie’s appearance was inspired by a German doll, Bild Lilli (a comic book character), seen in a store during a trip to Switzerland and apparently initially given to men as a gadget because of tobacco shop purchases. Only later did Bild Lilli become famous due to its success with children.

It seems that Mattel purchased the rights to the German doll and Ruth Handler created the first doll having adult features and designed specifically for little girls.


The first Barbie (full name Barbara Millicent Roberts born in Willows, Wisconsin) is exhibited on March 9, 1959, at the annual American Toy Fair in New York City.

The first prototype was patented in 1961, which was followed by several industrial models and patents covering the most diverse aspects of both the doll (e.g., movement of joints, to the face, hair) and the objects of the so-called Barbie’s world (clothing, environments, accessories, furniture, and so on).

There turn out to be nearly 300 registered trademarks worldwide for “Barbie” in the toy class alone.

In addition to the word version of the trademark “Barbie,” the various figurative versions of the signature that have followed over time have also been protected.




At least 23 trademarks are registered in the European Union alone to protect the name Barbie in both word and figurative versions. The doll’s packaging is also subject to protection through European design.






EU Design 000327184-0002 packaging

Regarding pink that has always been associated with Barbie, Mattel could not obtain any registered trademark for the color alone. It is, in fact, a color widely used for toys (particularly dolls), clothing, games, etc., and generally associated with the female world. However, the constant use of the shade of pink used on doll packaging and various accessories causes consumer perception to immediately associate the color pink with the world of Barbie (Pantone coined the color Pink Barbie Pantone 219C).

The word Barbie is also the subject of numerous domain name registrations by Mattel.

In addition, Mattel has over time entered into numerous licensing and merchandising agreements, as well as several brand collaborations, as a strategy to exploit and expand the intellectual property of the Barbie brand. Below are just a few examples of the latest collaborations related to the release of the film: Moon, Kitsch, Opi, NYX, Teezer, GAP, Zara, Superga, Impala Skate, and so on.

Barbie has moved from television to film and as a modern influencer has also conquered social media. She is present with her own App and communicates with her young followers through her own YouTube channel and a personal podcast series “With Barbie you can be anything you want,” through which she encourages imagination and to experiment through play.

To conclude, “Humans only have one ending. Ideas live forever” (from the movie Barbie). Especially if they are well protected through trademarks, patents, designs.


© THINX Srl – August 2023