Beasties Fight Back as GoldieBlox Taps Durie Tangri
We'll say this about GoldieBlox Inc., an upstart toy company that few people had heard of until last month: GoldieBlox's copyright fight with the Beastie Boys is generating a volume of publicity that most new companies can only dream about. And for a company that launched on Kickstarter.com only last fall, GoldieBlox is employing some awfully powerful IP lawyers.
On Tuesday, reigniting a spat that seemed to sputter out two weeks ago, the Beastie Boys' longtime lawyers at Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton brought copyright infringement claims against GoldieBlox in federal court in Oakland, Calif. The band claims that GoldieBlox used one of the Beastie Boys classic songs, "Girls," to sell its toys without permission.
The original 1987 track features lyrics like: "Girls, to do the dishes … Girls, to do the laundry … Girls, that's all I really want is girls." (In Tuesday's filing, Sheppard Mullin called the song a "sarcastic anthem.") GoldieBlox, whose CEO is a Stanford-educated female engineer, used "Girls" in a commercial for its girl-friendly construction toys. Goldieblox added new lyrics like "you like to buy us pink toys … it's time for a change …Girls, to build a spaceship … Girls, to code a new app." The ad went viral on social media, garnering more than 8 million views.
GoldieBlox kicked off the litigation preemptively with a Nov. 21 declaratory judgment suit, claiming that the video is a parody that showcases girls' aptitude for engineering play, and that it's protected from copyright liability as "fair use." The company showed it was serious by hiring Annette Hurst of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, a leading authority on fair use, to file the complaint.
Hurst told us on Wednesday that Orrick had to drop the case because of a conflict. Goldieblox is now represented by Daralyn Durie of Durie Tangri, another leading copyright litigator. Durie was not available for comment.
In addition to copyright infringement counterclaims, the Beastie Boys on Tuesday brought a claim for trademark infringement, arguing that the ad made it seem like the band authorized it. They also noted that "the Goldieblox advertisement direct coincided with and directly resulted in a massive increase in the sales of Goldieblox's products."
Sheppard Mullin's Kenneth Anderson, counsel to the Beastie Boys, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.