Plush wars? Squishmallows toy maker and Build-A-Bear sue each other over ‘copycat’ accusations

FILE - The Squishmallows booth sells toys modeled after Warren Buffett, pictured, and Charlie Munger in the exhibit hall for the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting, Saturday, May 6, 2023, in Omaha, Neb. In a lawsuit filed Monday, Feb. 12, 2024, Kelly Toys and parent company Jazwares accused Build-A-Bear's new “Skoosherz” line of copying Squishmallows' look and feel. Skoosherz toys have the “same distinctive trade dress” of Squishmallows, the complaint said — pointing to shape, face style, coloring and fabric similarities. (AP Photo/Rebecca S. Gratz, File)

NEW YORK — It turns out there are lots of sharp elbows in the plush toy business. Build-A-Bear and the makers of Squishmallows are facing off in federal court.

Kelly Toys and its Berkshire Hathaway -controlled parent company Jazwares have sued Build-A-Bear, saying its new “Skoosherz” toys copy the look and feel of their mega-popular Squishmallows products.


The Skoosherz line, which Build-A-Bear began selling last month, has the “same distinctive trade dress” of Squishmallows, the complaint filed Monday says, pointing to similarities in shape, face style, coloring and fabric.

“If a picture is worth a thousand words, comparing the Squishmallows original products to Build-a-Bear’s copycats speaks volumes,” Moez Kaba, an attorney representing Kelly Toys and Jazwares, said in a statement. The companies will “vigorously defend” their intellectual property rights, he added.

Jazwares is seeking unspecified damages and for Build-A-Bear to stop selling Skoosherz products.

But Build-A-Bear clapped back with its own lawsuit Monday, claiming Skoosherz does not infringe on the Squishmallows makers’ rights. It wants a declaratory judgement saying that the Squishmallow maker’s claimed trade dress rights are invalid and unenforceable.

The St. Louis-based retailer says Skoosherz products are based on its own original plush animals, “which have been sold for a number of years.” The lawsuit notes that products from other companies using features laid out in Jazwares’ complaint were around long before Squishmallows were created.

“If each aspect of the claimed trade dress were in fact protected trade dress, it would be virtually impossible for competitors to create alternative designs,” Build-A-Bear added. It said Squishmallows’ own line has also evolved and is not always consistent.

Squishmallows, which were created in 2016, have skyrocketed in popularity. According to market research firm Circana, the brand’s 8-inch plush assortment was the top-selling toy in the U.S. last year.

In addition to growing sales, Squishmallows have also become a sensation online. Celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Lady Gaga, for example, have shared images of their collections on social media.

In a Tuesday statement, Jazwares accused Build-A-Bear of going “great lengths” to capitalize on Squishmallows’ success.

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