Thursday, September 2, 2010

Say What You Need to Say, Mattel

"Take all of your wasted honor
Every little past frustration
Take all your so-called problems
Better put them in quotations
Say what you need to say
Say what you need to say ...." 

"Say What You Need to Say" ~ John Mayer

I have a few things to SAY about a lawsuit you probably haven't heard a word about.

I speak of the lawsuit between mega toy company Mattel vs. a much smaller outfit, Super Duper.  What, you SAY you haven't heard of this brou-ha-ha in the midst of such important news like Bristol Palin appearing on "Dancing with the Stars" or Paris Hilton being arrested?  Allow me to fill you in.

Before I SAY what I need to SAY, I need to give a shout-out to my friend Emily. It was Emily's blog post ("Say What, Mattel? Say ... Bullshit.") that made me aware of this travesty in the first place.

It seems that since 2004 (six years this crap has been going on!), toy company behemoth Mattel has been waging a court battle against Super Duper, Inc., a company that makes communication aides and other materials for kids with disabilities. Here's the gist of it, from Super Duper, via their website Speak Up for SAY that explains the case in detail and provides Mattel's version of events. (Underlining and bolding is my own emphasis.)

Mattel Toy Company and four federal judges have taken seven registered trademark product titles that include the words "SAY" and "AND SAY" away from special needs company Super Duper Publications, a company that for over 20 years has made educational speech and language therapy products for children with autism and other communication disorders.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered Super Duper to pay $1 million of its profits and $2.6 million in attorney's fees to Mattel (a $5.4 billion a year company), take SAY and AND SAY out of seven product titles, and destroy $500,000 of special needs products because they have the words SAY and AND SAY on them.

WHY? All because in 2004 Mattel decided people were likely to become confused between Super Duper's SAY therapy materials and a toy Mattel made in 1963 called SEE 'N SAY. Mattel also accused Super Duper of "riding on the coattails" of its toy by deliberately using the word SAY in order to make people think Super Duper's special needs books, card decks, and games were made by Mattel.

Just so we're clear, I'm talking about this, made by Mattel-owned Fisher-Price:

and this (among others), made by Super Duper, Inc.

Yeah, I'm very confused.  Aren't you?

The only confusion I have is why the hell Mattel feels the need to be the schoolyard bully against kids with special needs.  Because, really, let's be honest. Isn't that what is happening here?

Granted, this case isn't getting all that widespread attention so the PR ramifications aren't going to significantly impact Mattel's $5.4 billion dollar bottom line, if at all. (Especially with the multi-gazillion dollar spending months known as the holiday season upon us. Think of this case when doing your holiday shopping, folks.)

But SPEAKING from a PR perspective on this, what if Mattel took a different stance than one focused on the almighty dollar?  A stance where Mattel expanded its partnerships with toy companies that provide appropriate playthings for kids with special needs by working with Super Duper, Inc.

Such a position would have made the statement that in this world that has so many difficulties to begin with, some things are really not all that important.  Some things are worth just letting go, for the common greater good.  

Such a position would have had Mattel actually practicing what they SAY on their website. Which is this:

Play to grow. Play with passion. Play together. Play fair.

Play together?  Play fair?

Say what? 

Maybe it's just me.  But Mattel, what I SEE aNd what you SAY seem to be two very different things. 

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.


Maddy said...

I just read about this on Emily's. Boycott Mattel - no problem.

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

Melissa, you have the greatest posts. I am always learning something. thank you.

Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy) said...

Aww, Michelle ... thank YOU.

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

I'd say "ridiculous," but it's more "outrageous" than that.

Melissa, have you considered sending a copy of this to Mattel and/or op-eds of papers?