A potential clash is looming between two prominent plush toy manufacturers as they prepare to address a copyright dispute.
Squishmallows, produced by Jazwares, has raised concerns regarding Skoosherz, a newly introduced toy by Build-A-Bear Workshop, citing striking similarities to its own egg-shaped cushion animal characters.
Despite the cuddly nature of the toys involved, the impending legal showdown promises to be more akin to a rigorous legal battle than a playful pillow fight.
Jazwares, the manufacturer of Squishmallows, has initiated an intellectual property lawsuit in California. In response, Build-A-Bear Workshop has retaliated with a lawsuit of its own in Missouri, aiming to assert that Skoosherz, another cuddly creation of similar size, is merely its interpretation of a toy style that has gained popularity in recent years.
Jazwares contends that Skoosherz toys are “knockoffs” of Squishmallows, which it has been producing since 2017. It highlights their shared characteristics, such as “fanciful renditions” of animals, featuring “simplified Asian style Kawaii faces,” and crafted from “velvety velour-like” fabric.
The term “Kawaii” refers to the Japanese culture of cuteness.
“Build-A-Bear has made deliberate efforts to replicate the distinctive appearance, texture, and tactile design of Squishmallows in an attempt to capitalise on Squishmallows’ global success,” Jazwares stated in an email to the BBC.
Originally, Squishmallows comprised a small range of animals, including a fox, a cat, and a frog. Their popularity surged during the pandemic as consumers sought comforting items for their homes.
Squishmallows gained further traction on social media platforms like TikTok, aided by endorsements from celebrities like Lady Gaga and Kim Kardashian. Presently, there are over 1,000 different variations available.
In 2022, the investment firm owned by US billionaire Warren Buffett acquired Jazwares’ parent company, Alleghany.
The proliferation of similar velvety, squishy toys has persisted, with numerous versions widely accessible. Jazwares has already pursued legal action against the Chinese online retailer Alibaba for allegedly selling counterfeit products.
“In matters of intellectual property rights, imitation does not constitute flattery,” remarked Moez Kaba, Jazwares’ attorney.
Build-A-Bear, which introduced its Skoosherz line to tap into the soft toy trend ahead of Valentine’s Day, has not yet responded to requests for comment.