Barbie maker Mattel Inc. has agreed to drop a trademark lawsuit against Rap Snacks over the launch of Nicki Minaj-branded “Barbie-Que” potato chips, just a month after the case was filed.
Mattel’s August lawsuit, which did not name Minaj herself as a defendant, claimed that Rap Snacks made a “deliberate and calculated” choice to infringe the company’s trademark rights to Barbie. But in a filing on Wednesday, the toymaker asked the judge to voluntarily dismiss the case.
The settlement came after Rap Snacks appears to have changed the name of the Minaj-branded chips. In an August post on Instagram, the company advertised a Minaj “Bar-B-Quin’” flavor with the same “honey truffle” flavor as the product previously labeled “Barbie-Que.” No Minaj chips are currently available on the company’s site.
Neither side immediately returned requests for comments on the settlement, including whether Rap Snacks had paid any money to settle the case or had agreed to specific label changes as part of the lawsuit.
Launched in Philadelphia in 1994, Rap Snacks partners with top hip-hop stars to sell branded food products, like Cardi B‘s Cheddar Chips and Master P‘s Creamy Chicken Gumbo Ramen Noodles. The company, which says its products are in thousands of Walmarts and other retailers, has also branded its snacks with stars like Notorious B.I.G., Snoop Dogg, Migos and many others.
In June, the company announced Minaj’s Barbie-Que Honey Truffle Potato Chips – a riff on her longtime “Barbie” nickname and her “Barbz” fanbase. The launch had a big rollout, with billboards in Times Square and a marketing blitz on TikTok and Instagram.
But just a month later, Mattel filed a lawsuit claiming the name violated its trademark rights to the Barbie brand. In its complaint, the company said it had “immediately engaged” with Rap Snacks to try to avoid a lawsuit, but had been forced to sue as “a last resort to protect its rights and prevent further consumer confusion.”
“Rap Snacks made the deliberate and calculated choice to launch a new product line using Mattel’s famous Barbie trademark,” the company wrote, claiming that the bag’s pink color scheme would exacerbate the problem. “Defendant’s blatant and intentional use of Mattel’s trademark will cause consumers to associate the defendant’s products with Mattel and its Barbie brand.”
The case was not Mattel’s first clash with the music industry (or at least a music industry-adjacent company) over Barbie. In 1997, the toymaker famously sued MCA Records over Aqua’s smash hit “Barbie Girl,” claiming it infringed the Barbie trademark. But a federal appeals court ruled in 2002 that the song – which “pokes fun at Barbie and the values that Aqua contends she represents” – was protected free speech.
Unfortunately for Rap Snacks, that kind of defense would not have worked nearly as well in the case of an actual commercial product. A bag of chips is not afforded the same First Amendment protections as a song, and Mattel could have argued that consumers have come to expect authorized tie-in food products with brands like Barbie.
A rep for Minaj did not return a request for comment on the future of her brand with Rap Snacks.
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