ST. LOUIS — Build-A-Bear Workshop is demanding a jury trial after being served a lawsuit claiming the St. Louis toy manufacturer’s latest plush line, Skoosherz, is too similar to stuffed toy brand Squishmallows.
Last month, Squishmallows’ parent company, California-based Kelly Toys Holdings and its affiliated companies, sued Build-A-Bear and other plush toy retailers over alleged infringement of its trade dress rights, which protect a product’s appearance, shape, labeling, color and design.
Build-A-Bear filed a responding lawsuit Monday, asking the court to declare that Squishmallows’ trade dress is not valid, enforceable or protectable and that Build-A-Bear has not infringed on Squishmallows’ rights.
The Skoosherz line was released last month in anticipation for Valentine’s Day. In its lawsuit, Build-A-Bear calls the collectible products “spherical plush friends … made with an ultra-soft plush and stuffing perfect for hugging.”
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Build-A-Bear’s suit asserts that Squishmallows has previously described the features that make up its trade dress as being egg/bell-shaped, ultra-soft and velvety with silky memory foam-like stuffing and having embroidered kawaii (a Japanese term meaning prettiness or cuteness) facial features with distinctive and non-monochrome coloring.
However, Build-A-Bear argues that this trade dress is generic, vague, not seen across the entire Squishmallows product line and not distinct to Squishmallows. The company also claims that its Skoosherz toys are based on original, popular Build-A-Bear plush animals, features and all.
The five different Skoosherz toys are currently available in retail stores and online. The plushies — described in Build-A-Bear’s suit as being “uniquely styled for optimal hugging benefits” — include the pink axolotl, strawberry cow, spring green frog, rainbow sparkle teddy bear and a red raptor.
Kelly Toys Holdings’ lawsuit was filed in Florida state court. Build-A-Bear filed in the federal Eastern District of Missouri court.
Build-A-Bear is headquartered in St. Louis. It was founded in 1997 by Maxine Clark and opened its first store in Richmond Heights’ St. Louis Galleria Mall.