MCA Records slaps Mattel with ‘Barbie’ counterclaim

Lawsuit's single cause of action is defamation

MCA Records has responded to an earlier lawsuit filed against it by Mattel by naming the toy manufacturer in a counterclaim that asserts Mattel made false and defamatory statements about the label.

In its lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court, MCA Records alleged Mattel’s statements “accused MCA of crimes and subjected MCA to hatred, contempt, ridicule … or had a tendency to injure MCA in its reputation and business.” The lawsuit’s single cause of action is defamation.

Mattel’s lawsuit, filed Sept. 11, asked for the immediate recall of “Aquarium,” the debut album by Aqua, a Danish quartet that has made an international hit of its single “Barbie Girl.” Mattel claimed lyrics in the song “associate sexual and other unsavory themes with its Barbie products” (Daily Variety, Sept. 14).

The initial lawsuit was filed after a month of discussions between attorneys for MCA and Mattel failed to reach a resolution.

“Mattel’s statements regarding MCA … were made with ill will, hatred or actual malice toward MCA and were published fraudulently, recklessly, maliciously or oppressively with the intent to injure, disgrace and defame MCA and to blacken MCA’s name and reputation throughout the world,” the five-page counterclaim states.

MCA also asserts that Mattel “made false statements to the press,” such as, “MCA was equivalent to a ‘bank robber’ that had committed a ‘heist’ of Mattel’s property”; MCA’s conduct constituted “theft,” according to the lawsuit.

“As a direct and proximate result of Mattel’s statements regarding MCA … MCA has suffered, and continues to suffer, loss of reputation and lost profits in an amount that is not currently ascertainable by MCA,” the lawsuit alleges.

In “Barbie Girl,” which continues to drive the album and has helped it ascend the nation’s album sales charts, lead singer Lene Grawford Nystrom plays Barbie and bandmate Rene Dif limns Ken while warbling such bon mots as, “Let us do it again, hit the town, fool around, let’s go party” and, “Kiss me here, touch me there, hanky panky.” The disc sports a sticker stating, “The song ‘Barbie Girl’ is a social comment and was not approved or created by the makers of the doll.”

In the weeks subsequent to the filing of the lawsuit, and as a result of the publicity it generated, the album experienced a notable sales boost. The jump even came at a time when such taste-makers as music cabler MTV were all but ignoring the bouncy track.

An attorney for Mattel could not be reached for comment.