Saturday, May 31, 2008

can we all just agree that mattel should stop picking on special education?

mattel, the giant corporation that manufactures barbie, hot wheels, fisher price, and other popular toys has been battling a small, south carolina-based manufacturer of special education materials called super duper publications over super duper's use of the words "and say" in the titles of some of their theraputic toys for children with autism.
Since 1987, the Webbers [super duper's founders] have used the words “AND SAY” and “SAY AND” in the titles of their speech and language materials, including workbooks, card decks, and games.

In March, 2004, Mattel opposed a trademark registration the Webbers had filed for use for the name “SORT AND SAY” on a line of special education magnetic games. A year later, Mattel filed to cancel three other Super Duper registered marks , FISH & SAY, FOLD AND SAY, and SEE IT!, SAY IT!.

Super Duper then filed a lawsuit in federal court, seeking a finding that its 15 SAY trademarks did not infringe on any of Mattel’s trademarks. Mattel responded by claiming Super Duper’s use of these SAY marks on its special education products amounted to trademark infringement and dilution of the Mattel’s SEE ‘N SAY electronic pull toy. Mattel asked the court to prevent Super Duper from publishing any of its materials using the 15 marks, and sought $10 million in damages. (full article here.)
remember, super duper sells resources for use by educational professionals and parents for children with autism. and mattel is upset that super duper uses the word "say" in their educational and theraputic games. "say." does the use of the word "say" in the name of the game "see it! say it!" really dilute and infringe upon the see 'n' say? and, given that characteristics of autism include difficulties with speech and conversation, what else should a game that involves seeing and then saying words be called?

this comes down to a simple question that is either absurd to the point of hilarious, or terrifying. or both. do corporations have the right to own words like "say?"

as a side note, there is no way that super duper's products constitute a threat to the market dominance of mattel. for example, super duper's website indicates that there is a sale on the phonological awareness fun park set—not exactly poaching the barbie purchasers, right? i'm sure mattel would like to hear your perspective on the issue. here's their contact page.

edited: clarity

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