Guardian of Barbie's Legacy: Michael Moore's Journey from AUWCL to Safeguarding Mattel's Iconic Brand
Navigating Intellectual Property Challenges in the Wake of Barbie's Cultural Renaissance
If you asked Michael Moore if he imagined himself working at Mattel, the 1996 American University Washington College of Law (AUWCL) grad might have found it amusing.
“I think if you had told me I’d be working for Mattel when I started at American University, I would’ve maybe laughed at you,” he said. “I would’ve thought 'that was great.'”
Moore is an associate general counsel, senior director, and global head of intellectual property – content and brands at Mattel.
When Moore came to American University Washington College of Law (AUWCL), he wanted to go into international law. While he was getting a bachelor's degree at the University of California, San Diego, in the early 90s, there were a few humanitarian crises in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Listening to NPR, he would hear professors and speakers from AU address international human rights.
“I thought Washington College of Law would be a great place to study and potentially be a human rights lawyer,” he said.
That changed, however, when he took a copyright course and became interested in intellectual property.
In the 22 years Moore has been at Mattel, he has seen the company go from being more than a toy company. He says his role continues to evolve, and that is what has kept him there.
“My role, I feel like every year, is constantly evolving,” he said. “That’s no doubt part of the reason I’ve been as long. When I say to people, “I’ve been at Mattel for 22 years,” it’s hard to believe that somebody has been in one place for so long.”
Since the release of the Barbie movie in July, Mattel has seen an uptick in copyright infringement.
“I will say the movie has been a cultural moment, and might even say a cultural event,” Moore said. “There are a lot of people who are very passionate about Barbie and want to celebrate Barbie and the messages that the movie brings out and conveys to people. So, there are a lot of unauthorized uses of our brands in places that we need to address because we do have partners who license from us.”
This has kept a lot of lawyers across the globe busy. Historically, Mattel has had a reputation for being aggressive and protecting its brand. Since the movie’s release, the company has taken a more nuanced approach to its IP enforcement and loves that people are celebrating the brand.
“The line has to be drawn when somebody is commercializing our brand, making money off of it in a way that affects [Mattel],” said Moore.
Moore had the great opportunity to attend the “Pink Carpet” Premiere of Barbie and says he sometimes still cannot believe it’s all happening.
“I never imagined I’d be doing this,” he said. “Every now and then, I have to pinch myself.”
Moore encourages students to continue to put in the work.
“If you keep at it and become an expert in the field, you’ll be surprised at how far you can go, and the impact you can have out in the community,” he said.
Story by Liz Newton.