As someone who has worked with and for a lot of companies, I’m pretty sympathetic to the need to protect intellectual properties. This time, though, I think Mattel has shot itself in its PR foot. It’s gone after a family-owned company, Super Duper Inc, that makes learning materials for special-needs kids. Some of it is specially designed to treat speech problems in children with autism.
Super Duper made games and learning packages with names like FISH AND SAY, FOLD AND SAY, and SEE IT! SAY IT!
Back in 2004 Mattel claimed this clashed with their well-known See ‘n’ Say toy. Because it had “And Say” in the title. It ended up in court, with Mattel suing for $10 million in damages. They’ve won the case, been awarded just under $1 million in damages and $2.6 mn in court fees. And $50,000 worth of Super Duper’s existing special education materials that will be destroyed even though Super Duper would prefer to donate them to special needs children and institutions. Fifteen of Super Duper’s titles are affected.
Frankly, this is ridiculous. These special-ed materials were targeted at kids with learning disabilities, and sold by mail order. Who was going to be confused? Hordes of people who thought they were buying Mattel products for their kid or niece or grandchild?
I learned about this from a friend who has a son with special needs, who put it on Facebook. It’s probably zinging around the social network, as well as the special-needs community. Here are some quotes from an autism forum when they first learned about it in 2008:
“…I’m not liking Mattel very much. Do you know how many instructional speech materials have the phrase ” And Say” in them? What phrase does Mattel suggest be used in it’s place?”
“I am in shock…how sad that a mega million dollar company would go after such a small company like them that is doing such good things for special needs kids:(“
“That’s horrid. It made me slightly nauseous to read it…”
“This just makes my blood boil…”
And here’s an article from online Journal “NewsBlaze” entitled Does it matter, Mattel? which concludes: “If it matters to Mattel that they are making life-long enemies and sowing perennial seeds of resentment that will persist for generations, time will tell.”
So what’s this whole mess bought Mattel?
Certainly not a clue. People who email them are apparently getting a generic response. I’m emailing them, too, and will share what they send back.