Mattel to Pay $1.8 Million in Barbie Art Lawsuit

Mattel Inc. must pay more than $1.8 million in legal fees and court costs to a Utah man who incorporated nude Barbie dolls (search) in his artwork, a federal judge has ruled.

The award stems from a lawsuit the El Segundo-based toy maker filed in 1999 against Tom Forsythe of Kanab, Utah, on grounds that his series of photos, "Food Chain Barbie," infringed on the toy maker's copyrights.

The photos often depicted Barbie dolls placed in sexually provocative positions. One called "Barbie Enchiladas," shows four Barbie dolls inside a lit oven, wrapped in tortillas and covered with salsa in a casserole dish.

Mattel contended the images might hurt its brand and lead some consumers to believe that the company, which began selling the doll line in 1959, might be behind the photos.

The company lost its case, and in December, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Mattel's appeal, saying Forsythe had a First Amendment (search) right to parody the iconic doll. The panel also said Mattel's lawsuit "may have been groundless and unreasonable."

The question of legal fees was sent back to U.S. District Court Judge Ronald S.W. Lew in Los Angeles, who echoed the panel's statements in his nine-page ruling last week.

Mattel spokeswoman Lisa Marie Bongiovanni said Monday the company had not made a decision on whether to appeal. "Mattel is still very committed to vigorously protecting our intellectual property," Bongiovanni said. "For us, our trademarks are among our most valuable assets."

Forsythe has said he uses Barbies to criticize "the materialistic and gender-oppressive values" he believes the dolls embody.