If you’ve visited BarbieCue, the food truck that resides next to Marker 48 on Cortez Blvd, you have probably been in search of ribs or brisket. In her four years in business, Laurie-Ann Wilkens has never had a patron approach her window asking what the iconic doll with the same first name is doing these days.
We checked. Mattel’s Barbie has been working in marine biology, beekeeping and even photojournalism, but she’s not been creating spice rubs or perfecting her “Hot and Fast” method of smoking meat.
Wilkens, however has been.
Wilkens applied for a trademark in February of this year (2019). Her logo and slogan, “It’s Smokin’ Hot” were approved for publication by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Upon approval, the request becomes public record, and other companies are able to review it and oppose if they feel the trademark infringes upon their own.
“Mattel opposed it because ‘Barbie’ is in the name, but they have nothing in the rubs and sauces or food truck realm,” Wilkens said. “So they would have to show that they were intending on opening food trucks or had the intention of having rubs and sauces one day.”
After speaking to several attorneys, Wilkens was confident that if the average consumer walked into any store, and saw rubs and sauces bearing the “BarbieCue” name, they probably wouldn’t question if the owner was Mattel.
“It would actually confuse a consumer to think that Mattel had a rub or a sauce.”
Barbie apparel, the iconic house, Corvette and Jeep are unmistakable. But the categories for rubs, sauces and food trucks were not claimed by Mattel. The closest that Mattel comes to those categories is a restaurant in Taipei, Taiwan.
Showing her logo, Wilkens said, “No one has asked Mattel, “Hey I didn’t know you have a food truck in Brooksville, Florida! And no one has come to my food truck and asked if I was associated with Mattel. Because they look at the logo, and clearly, there is no association, because I am the logo. That’s a picture of me.”
Wilkens had briefly hired an attorney, who she fired on the morning of this interview. She plans to hire another attorney, but be actively involved in her representation. “I believe no one can represent someone like they’re going to represent themselves. Especially since it’s my brand. I am the brand, so who’s going to represent my thoughts, my feelings better than I?”
Ironically, Wilkens is the girl that Mattel’s Barbie represents. A child of Brazilian immigrants, she enlisted in the Army after high school, with dual specialties as a combat medic and a psychiatric specialist. Later, she went on to teach Tae Kwon Do, own a farm and work in medical sales. Successful in her earlier ventures, she began Barbie Cue in 2015.
“Why would they want to squash that? The Barbie dream is to make it,” Mattel should want to join forces.
Facing a seeming ‘David and Goliath’ conflict, Wilkens said, “I’m not mad at corporate America. They have a brand to protect. Corporate America employs everyday people, like you, like me … so I don’t get mad at ‘Corporate America,’ I get mad at things like this.”
This conflict isn’t affecting her attention to her customers however. Wilkens speaks of her regulars and watching her customers’ kids grow up and taking their first bite of BarbieCue. “They believe in me, they believe in the product.”
If you haven’t been there yet:
Find Barbie Cue in the Weeki Washee Car Wash Parking lot
(Next door to Marker 48)
12125 Cortez Blvd, Brooksville, FL 34613
Visit @FLBarbieCue on Facebook: