Toy Company Legal Battle Shows Cabbage Patch Kids Still Prompting Fights

Image courtesy of william_mckeehan

Long gone are the days of parents tussling it out in toy store aisles over Cabbage Patch Dolls, those squish-faced darlings of the early ’80s, but there are still people willing to duke it out in the name of the doll. This time, they’re toy companies, and they’re fighting each other in court.

Though the Cabbage Patch line doesn’t pull in anywhere near the $600 million a year it enjoyed in its heyday, the brand is still doing pretty well, with $50 million a year in revenue, Bloomberg reports in an in-depth look at the doll fight of our time.

The battle for those millions is going down right now between the company that holds the marketing license for the dolls now, Wicked Cool Toys, and Jakks Pacific Inc., the previous license holder.

Here’s what it boils down to: the brand’s owner, Original Appalachian Artworks Inc., has been giving the marketing license to different companies over the years. After a decade with Jakks, OAA handed the license to Wicked Cool Toys in 2014, a company that was started in 2012 by a former senior Jakks executive named Michael Rinzler. Cue litigation avalanche.

Jakks sued [PDF] Wicked Cool Toys and a man named Jeremy Padawer in New York court last September, seeking $20 million in damages. Padawer had worked on Cabbage Patch Kids when he was working at Jakks. He then moved to join Rinzler at Wicked Cool Toys, which didn’t sit too well with his former employers: Jakks accused Padawer of disparaging the company and leaking information, in order to convince OAA to take the license away from Jakks and give it to Wicked Cool Toys.

Wicked Cool Toys and Padawer denied those charges and countersued, accusing Jakks of cutting advertising for the Cabbage Patch line and flooding the market with low-priced dolls right before it lost the license, as part of an effort to tarnish the brand before it moved to a new company. Those moves cost Wicked Cool Toys at least $4 million in sales, the suit says.

The lawsuit also alleges that CEO and co-founder Stephen Berman was in charge of a hostile workplace at Jakks, one with homosexual slurs, physical abuse, and intimidation. Berman didn’t comment to Bloomberg.

Jakks says the claims the countersuit makes are baseless, and that it’s all an attempt to get back at it for filing its lawsuit, in a filing asking the court to dismiss the action.

Besides, there’s nothing wrong in cutting prices of your own product, even if it happens to be at an inconvenient time for a rival, said an attorney representing Jakks.

“Wal-Mart can’t complain about how Amazon prices its goods or how Amazon advertises,” he said at a hearing in Manhattan. “Even if we told other retailers we don’t like them, it’s all good, that’s competition.”

For more on the latest legal brouhaha over Cabbage Patch dolls, head over to Bloomberg for the full story.

If you’re feeling nostalgic, here’s a news report from the 1980s covering Cabbage Patch Kids mania:

The New Fight Over Cabbage Patch Kids Has Sabotage, Choke Holds and Slurs [Bloomberg]