Plush comes to shove as Build-A-Bear and Squishmallows face off in court

Fur is set to fly as the makers of Build-A-Bear and the makers of Squishmallows face off in court.

Kelly Toys and its Berkshire Hathaway -controlled parent company Jazwares have sued Build-A-Bear, saying its new “Skoosherz” toys copy the look and feel of their mega-popular Squishmallows products.

The Skoosherz line, which Build-A-Bear began selling last month, has the “same distinctive trade dress” of Squishmallows, the complaint filed Monday says, pointing to similarities in shape, face style, coloring and fabric.

“If a picture is worth a thousand words, comparing the Squishmallows original products to Build-a-Bear’s copycats speaks volumes,” Moez Kaba, an attorney representing Kelly Toys and Jazwares, said in a statement. The companies will “vigorously defend” their intellectual property rights, he added.

Jazwares is seeking unspecified damages and for Build-A-Bear to stop selling Skoosherz products.

A shareholder leaves the Squishmallows booth with a large bag of purchases in the exhibition hall

(Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

But Build-A-Bear clapped back with its own lawsuit Monday, claiming Skoosherz does not infringe on the Squishmallows makers’ rights. It wants a declaratory judgement saying that the Squishmallow maker’s claimed trade dress rights are invalid and unenforceable.

The St. Louis-based retailer says Skoosherz products are based on its own original plush animals, “which have been sold for a number of years.” The lawsuit notes that products from other companies using features laid out in Jazwares’ complaint were around long before Squishmallows were created.

“If each aspect of the claimed trade dress were in fact protected trade dress, it would be virtually impossible for competitors to create alternative designs,” Build-A-Bear added. It said Squishmallows’ own line has also evolved and is not always consistent.

The Squishmallows booth sells toys modeled after Warren Buffett, pictured

(Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Squishmallows, which were created in 2016, have skyrocketed in popularity. According to market research firm Circana, the brand’s 8-inch plush assortment was the top-selling toy in the U.S. last year.

In addition to growing sales, Squishmallows have also become a sensation online. Celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Lady Gaga, for example, have shared images of their collections on social media.

In a Tuesday statement, Jazwares accused Build-A-Bear of going “great lengths” to capitalize on Squishmallows’ success.

Jazwares’ lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in California, added that Skoosherz’s look, name and marketing has already confused consumers — leading to a potential losses in sales.

Build-A-Bear pushed back with its own complaint, which was filed in federally from Missouri, saying it does not seek to mislead consumers and that “there is in fact no actual confusion.”

Squishmallow Kellytoy Set of 4 Springtime Easter Egg Collection

(Squishmallow )

Skoosherz’ January launch arrived in anticipation for Valentine’s Day, Build-A-Bear added.

Attorneys for Build-A-Bear and the company did not immediately respond to requests for further comment Tuesday.

This isn’t the first legal battle over Squishmallows. In December, Kelly Toys also sued Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba alleging that its online platforms were used to sell counterfeit Squishmallows.

Jazwares’ parent is Alleghany Corp., an insurance giant controlled by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. Buffett did not immediately respond to a message about the lawsuits on Tuesday, but the billionaire’s Omaha, Nebraska-based conglomerate typically leaves the handling of such litigation to its subsidiaries.

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