Squishmallow and Build-a-Bear head into legal battle over ‘knock-offs’

Feb 15, 2024, 1:27 PM

A split — with images from the Kelly Toys Holdings, LLC lawsuit — shows a Squishmallows product...

A split — with images from the Kelly Toys Holdings, LLC lawsuit — shows a Squishmallows product, left, and a Skoosherz product. Mandatory Credit: Jazwares/Build-A-Bear Workshop/Kelly Toys Holdings, LLC/US District Court for the Central District of California

New York (CNN) — They’re soft, cuddly, and heading into a legal battle.

The owners of Squishmallow, the popular egg-shaped stuffed animals, filed an intellectual property lawsuit against Build-A-Bear on Monday, claiming its new “Skoosherz” line is a knock-off version of its own. Build-a-Bear fired back with its own legal complaint, claiming “Skoosherz” is its own version of a popular toy style.

“Rather than competing fairly in the marketplace by creating its own unique concepts and product lines, Defendant Build-A-Bear, a company worth over 300 million dollars, decided that it would be easier to simply copy, imitate, and profit off the popularity and goodwill of Squishmallows, all in the hopes of confusing consumers into buying its products instead of Squishmallows,” the lawsuit by Jazwares and Kelly Toys said.

Squishmallow creator Kelly Toys and its owner Jazwares (which itself is owned by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway) filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District in California on Monday.

Launched in 2016, the now wildly popular Squishmallows were the top-selling toy in 2023, according to a Circana full-year report. Much like surges for Beanie Babies, Cabbage Patch dolls or Pound Puppies, Squishmallows have become a collectible item and developed an avid fanbase in both adults and children. Its sales totaled $200 million in 2022 alone, the lawsuit claimed.

Build-A-Bear has been around for more than 25 years, and saw a strong resurgence post-pandemic, much of it fueled by older customers. It has launched an online store called “the Bear Cave” that only customers aged 18 and up can access (one bear for Valentine’s Day is in a satin robe and has a bottle of champagne); collaborations with ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Pokémon;’ and in January 2024, its trademarked “Skoosherz.”

The Jazwares lawsuit claims Skoosherz have the same features as Squishmallows: “Asian style Kawaii faces,” embroidered facial features, distinctive coloring, and the same velvety texturing. Kawaii is the Japanese culture of cuteness.

The lawsuit claims Build-A-Bear has been trying to “trick” customers with such obvious knock-offs, stealing potential customers and sales from Squishmallows. Unlike regular Build-A-Bears, where customers customize their stuffed animals, Skoosherz are sold pre-made, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages and for Build-a-Bear to stop selling Skoosherz.

Build-a-Bear fires back

But Build-A-Bear hit the toymakers with its own complaint in US district court in Missouri on Monday, challenging the claim that the company violated Squishmallow’s distinctive trade dress, or overall appearance or feel of a product.

The St. Louis-based company is seeking a declaration to quickly resolve the issue, that would make Squishmallow’s infringement claims on trade dress invalid.

Build-A-Bear claims it has sold pre-made stuffed animals on its site and on Amazon. It claims Skoosherz designs match its original stuffed animals, such as the Strawberry Cow and Spring Green Frog. It claims the Build-A-Bear logo is also clearly displayed on the stuffed toys.

“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,” the lawsuit claimed.

CNN has reached out to Build-a-Bear and the complaint’s lead counsel for comment.

Jazwares said that though it usually doesn’t comment on litigation, this time “we feel we must,” saying Build-A-Bear “has gone to great lengths” to copy its toys.

“Squishmallows has become wildly successful due to Jazwares’ creativity and investments. Jazwares will vigorously pursue and protect its clients’ rights. The law should protect innovation not imitation,” Moez Kaba, lead counsel representing Jazwares and Kelly Toys, said in a statement to CNN.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

KSL 5 TV Live

National News

FILE - Former film producer Harvey Weinstein appears in court at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Crimina...

MIchael Sisak

New York appeals court overturns Harvey Weinstein’s 2020 rape conviction from landmark #MeToo trial

New York’s highest court has overturned Harvey Weinstein’s 2020 rape conviction.

1 hour ago

Rudy Giuliani, the former personal lawyer for former U.S. President Donald Trump, speaks to the pre...

Jacques Billeaud, Jonathan J. Cooper and Josh Kelety

Arizona indicts 18 in election interference case, including Giuliani and Meadows

An Arizona grand jury has indicted former President Donald Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, lawyer Rudy Giuliani and 16 others in an election interference case related to the 2020 presidential vote.

2 hours ago

FILE - Travis Scott performs at the Astroworld Music Festival in Houston, Nov. 5, 2021. A Texas gra...

Juan A. Lozano, Associated Press

Judge declines to dismiss lawsuits filed against rapper Travis Scott over concert that killed 10

A judge has declined to dismiss hundreds of lawsuits filed against rap star Travis Scott over his role in the deadly 2021 Astroworld festival in which 10 people were killed in a crowd surge.

3 hours ago

Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Mike Johnson (R-LA) attends a news conference at Colum...

Haley Talbot, Lauren Fox and Clare Foran, CNN

Johnson calls on Columbia University president to resign during tense news conference

House Speaker Mike Johnson called on Columbia University’s president to resign Wednesday during a tense news conference.

15 hours ago

A Ford sign is shown at a dealership in Springfield, Pa., Tuesday, April 26, 2022. Ford is recallin...

Chris Isidore, CNN

Ford just reported a massive loss on every electric vehicle it sold

Ford’s electric vehicle unit reported that losses soared in the first quarter to $1.3 billion, or $132,000 for each of the 10,000 vehicles it sold in the first three months of the year, helping to drag down earnings for the company overall.

17 hours ago

Mandatory Credit:	Mario Anzuoni/Reuters via CNN Newsource
Dateline:	LOS ANGELES, February 04, 2024...

Lisa Respers France, CNN

Taylor Swift’s elementary school teachers remember her as a young star

Turns out Taylor Swift doesn’t just speak now when it comes to writing, but has long had a reputation for being fearless.

19 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why Printer Security Should Be Top of Mind for Your Business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Squishmallow and Build-a-Bear head into legal battle over ‘knock-offs’