- By Lucy Hooker
- Business reporter, BBC News
Fur may be about to fly as two hugely popular plush toy makers square up for a fight over a copyright issue.
Squishmallows, says Skoosherz, a new toy made by Build-A-Bear Workshop is too similar to its own egg-shaped cushion animal characters.
Despite the cuddly nature of the subject matter it will be more hard-nosed legal battle than pillow fight.
Jazwares, the maker of Squishmallows, has launched an intellectual property lawsuit in California.
But Build-A-Bear Workshop has launched its own lawsuit in retaliation in Missouri, aiming to establish that the Skoosherz, another dinner plate-sized huggable, is simply its own version of a type of toy that has become popular in recent years.
Jazwares, however, says the Skoozherz toys are “knockoffs” of the Squishmallows it has sold since 2017, pointing out they are also “shaped fanciful renditions” of animals, with “simplified Asian style Kawaii faces,” and “velvety velour-like” fabric.
Kawaii is a reference to the Japanese culture of cuteness.
“Build-A-Bear has gone to great lengths to copy the distinct look, feel, and tactile design of Squishmallows to capitalise on Squishmallows’ global success blatantly and intentionally,” Jazwares told the BBC in an email.
There was originally a small range of Squishmallows animals, including a fox, a cat, and a frog. They became increasingly popular during the pandemic as people treated themselves to comforting items for their homes.
Squishmallows also went viral on TikTok, helped by celebrities including Lady Gaga and Kim Kardashian. There are now more than 1,000 different versions of them.
In 2022, US billionaire Warren Buffett’s investment firm bought Jazwares’ parent company Alleghany.
The proliferation of this type of velvety squashy toys has continued, with many versions widely available and Jazwares already has a case against Chinese online retailer Alibaba for allegedly selling counterfeits.
“When it comes to intellectual property rights, imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery,” Jazwares’ lawyer, Moez Kaba, said in a statement.
Build-A-Bear, which launched its Skoosherz range to tap into the popularity of soft toys in the run up to Valentine’s Day, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.