Barbie vs Burberry is the most surprising brand battle of the year

Barbie vs Burberry: an image from the Barbie movie and of a model wearing Burberry clothes
(Image credit: Warner Bros / Burberry)

Of all the brand battles we could imagine, Barbie vs Burberry is one we didn't see coming. I mean, Barbie would never be seen dead in beige, right? And yet the British luxury fashion giant famous for applying the same old print to everything it makes has managed to upset the world's favourite anatomically impossible doll.

In contention are four consonants little consonants: B, R, B and Y. But as we saw in our pick of the best 3-letter logos, just a few letters can communicate a lot.

BRBY logo

Burberry wants to drop its vowels (Image credit: Burberry)

Barbie is big this year, with Warner Bros's new Barbie movie to be released on July 20 (see the amusing x-rated French Barbie posters). Barbara Millicent Roberts does not want anyone to rain on her parade, especially not a fashion brand. The toymaker Mattel, which has been making Barbie since 1959, is trying to stop Burberry from trademarking 'BRBY' as an all-caps, vowelless abbreviation of its own name in turn-of-the-century SMS-speak. 

Mattel says the monicker would cause confusion with Barbie since it is "visually similar" and "phonetically identical". In Opposition No. 91285723 submitted to the US Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, it says a BRBY mark on clothing, bags and other products would dilute its brand and mislead consumers into thinking it was a "subset or expansion" of Barbie, which appears on clothing, jewellery and cosmetics as well as the dolls.

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To be fair, it kind of has a point. Spoken as a single word, 'BRBY' is more 'Barbie' than 'Burberry' since it drops a whole syllable from the fashion house's name. However, trademark lawyer Josh Gerben notes that context is important, and Burberry's clothing is so well-known that it may be decided that consumers would clearly recognise the abbreviated name as Burberry. He's suggested the dispute may be resolved with guidelines on how the trademark can be used.

Maybe Burberry should just go for BRBRRY instead. Or maybe it should just carry on writing its name out in full. After all, it bucked trends and went back to tradition with the reveal of the nice new Burberry logo earlier this year.

For more obvious recent brand battles see four times that big brands roasted each other and the Tesco vs Lidl logo dispute.

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Joseph Foley

Joe is a regular freelance journalist and editor at Creative Bloq. He writes news and features, updates buying guides and keeps track of the best equipment for creatives, from monitors to accessories and office supplies. A writer and translator, he also works as a project manager at London and Buenos Aires-based design, production and branding agency Hermana Creatives, where he manages a team of designers, photographers and video editors who specialise in producing photography, video content, graphic design and collaterals for the hospitality sector. He enjoys photography, particularly nature photography, wellness and he dances Argentine tango.