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August 16, 2022

Rap Snacks sued by Mattel over Barbie-inspired potato chip collaboration with Nicki Minaj

The company is being accused of trademark infringement and unfair competition for its 'confusingly similar' branding

Hip-hop-inspired snack brand Rap Snacks is being sued by Mattel Inc. over alleged trademark infringement for its recent Barbie-themed potato chip collaboration with Nicki Minaj. 

The popular toymaker filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles federal court earlier this month, accusing Rap Snacks of utilizing Barbie's trademarked name and logo for its "Barbie-Que" chips without permission.

Mattel is seeking punitive damages, court fees, any profits generated from the product and an order blocking Rap Snacks from using the brand name.

"Rap Snacks made the deliberate and calculated choice to launch a new product line using Mattel's famous Barbie trademark," the complaint reads. "That choice, made without any prior notice to Mattel, was unlawful. As a result, Mattel has been forced to bring this lawsuit to defend its rights to the Barbie brand because defendant Rap Snacks impermissibly traded off, and continues to trade off, the value and goodwill of Mattel's famous trademark." 

In its complaint, Mattel further alleges that the logo for the chips is "confusingly similar" to the current Barbie logo and is "virtually identical" to an alternative one used in recent years. 

The company notes that the promotion of the chip collaboration — which included billboards in New York City, giveaways at Essence Festival in New Orleans and an exclusive announcement with People Magazine — has led to customer confusion about Mattel and Barbie's connection to the new product line.

The complaint says that Rap Snacks founder James Lindsay attempted to trademark "Barbie-Que" in April 2022 in connection with a variety of snack items. When this was discovered by Mattel, it contacted the snack company directly about potential trademark infringement. 

Mattel has also alleged that Rap Snacks is engaging in dilution, blurring the distinctiveness of the Barbie brand by selling food products with its name. 

Lindsay, who grew up in Philadelphia and attended Cheyney University, created Rap Snacks in 1994. He has worked with dozens of artists, including Snoop Dogg, Migos and Rick Ross. In 2001, he expanded his Miami-based business by acquiring snack food line Mr. G, which specialized in barbecue and cheddar-flavored potato chips. 

Mattel and Rap Snacks did not immediately return requests for comment on Tuesday regarding the ongoing litigation. 

Minaj, who announced the collaboration in June, was not listed as a co-defendant. However, the rapper has used Barbie as part of her persona since the start of her career. Minaj's fanbase call themselves "Barbz" in reference to her stage persona. 

Minaj's label, Universal Music, has not commented on the lawsuit, Reuters reported. Universal has been part of a co-marketing agreement with Rap Snacks, where it promotes hip-hop artists featured on the potato chip bags.