Disney is hunting down the most popular Baby Yoda toys on Etsy

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Everyone loves Baby Yoda, but official merchandise of the character has been hard to find, since Disney didn’t want to spoil the surprise surrounding the little green alien by producing toys and t-shirts ahead of The Mandalorian’s premiere. In that vacuum, plenty of enterprising Etsy sellers have popped up to sell their own homemade Baby Yoda plushies and toys — at least, until Disney started issuing takedown notices, requiring that Etsy remove listings for bootleg merch.

Several Etsy sellers tell The Verge they have had their listings removed, cutting off popular products and disrupting existing sales. One seller, Tanya, who runs the stuffed animal storefront YourStuffedMemories, had been selling homemade Baby Yoda plushies for about a month when she received a message from Etsy. It had deactivated her sales listing after getting a complaint from Disney over her usage of the words “Star Wars,” “mandalorian,” and “Yoda” to sell the plushies.

Another seller, Kate, had a listing for a Baby Yoda-style dice bag at her HedgeCrafts store removed by Etsy for similar reasons, as did the 1OOAcreWoodshop storefront, which sells knit wool plushies of the character. Most of the stores that The Verge talked to had takedowns issued in the last week.

The original listings for these stores were extremely popular: one Yoda doll had “over 2,000 views and 300 favorites,” while another seller said that she used to see at least 100 to 200 views a day. Removing the listings also caused issues with existing orders for at least one seller, delaying shipments as they tried to reconcile orders in Etsy’s system between the old and new listings. (My own order for a Baby Yoda from YourStuffedMemories was among those delayed.)

The takedowns come as Disney has finally begun selling its own Baby Yoda toys and plushies, including dolls that are available to preorder and a planned Build-A-Bear partnership for later this year. Disney has been oddly slow to offer products featuring the hit character. It took several weeks after the show premiered before Disney sold even the most lackluster of T-shirts and mugs. In that void, the Etsy market has been one of the only places to get Baby Yoda products — often, better-looking ones than what Disney would offer.

It’s a difficult situation for sellers. Baby Yoda (like the terms “Star Wars,” “The Mandalorian,” and “Yoda”) is owned by Disney, and the company has the legal right to enforce its intellectual property and prevent others from profiting off its work. But fans have been eager for products Disney isn’t offering, and sellers’ handmade toys can deliver a burst of new customers to Etsy shops that typically sell much lower-profile goods, like stuffed unicorns and wall decorations. Tanya, the only seller to give approximate sales, told The Verge that she had sold 200 or so of the plushies.

Etsy declined to comment on the takedowns but pointed to its “Intellectual Property Policy,” which says that “Etsy reserves the right to disable any listing, shop, or account” in response to intellectual property claims. Disney has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Tanya has resumed selling her plushies under the more ambiguous name “The Baby Child,” with all direct references to Star Wars and The Mandalorian removed. She’s still concerned that Disney may try to remove the listing, but the effects of the takedown have already hit — not having the Star Wars keywords have made her product much harder to find, with views of her page slowing down to a trickle of two to 10 views a day.

Kate has relisted her dice bag, too, with a more generic description: “Is he an alien, a goblin?... his origins are unknown.” She says that her dice bag sales have also decreased since she’s had to relist it without the Star Wars keywords, but she thinks the slowdown may be for the best: all her bags are handmade, and she’s already got weeks of orders to fulfill.

The 1OOAcreWoodshop has taken a similar tack: it now sells a “Baby Alien Plush Doll.” Although like Kate and Tanya, the company tells The Verge that views have dropped considerably on the new listing as a result.

They’re not the only ones. A quick search on Etsy for “the child” or “baby alien” reveals a plethora of stores attempting to avoid Disney’s gaze. But Disney’s copyright claims seem to be oddly scattershot, and there are still thousands of listings on the site that blatantly sell “Baby Yoda” and “Mandalorian” merch. It’s not clear why these specific listings were targeted, but their popularity may have played a role. Kate said her dice bag jumped in popularity when it was highlighted by Geek Girls in December, driving shoppers to her store and boosting sales — at least until Disney spotted it.

The Verge guide to The Mandalorian

Season 1 4
Season 2 10
Baby Yoda 2
Behind the scenes 5

Comments

Thanks Disney lawyers. You have made the world a better place.

I guess you don’t realize that if the owner of IP does not defend their property, they lose the right to defend their ownership.

Disney, like all owners of IP, must defend it or lose it.

If you owned Baby Yoda, you’d defend it too.

That’s…. not how it works for anything except specific trademark situations.

And they were defending trademarked names – StarWars, Etc. At least according to the article.

Exactly. Plus, Nilay’s statement isn’t even correct. Other forms of IP also have use it or lose it concepts. Not enforcing a patent in a reasonable time, for example, impairs the patent owner’s rights to recovery (see laches).

Yes, indeed. This is how it works, even when it’s not how it works.

Arbitrarily defending your copyright isn’t as "use it or lose it" as arbitrarily defending your trademark, but the courts still aren’t going to be kind to you if you ignore some copyright violations and go after others.

Which is what this was. In trademark law, not defending your trademark falls under non-use.

Nilay is a lawyer. And you’re an internet stranger. So I’ll take his word for it.

Did you just assume TDHawk00’s profession?!

Technically a good assumption, since the chances of TDHawk00’s profession to be not-a-lawyer is significantly higher than is-a-lawyer.

Well, Nilay went to law school but he is not a lawyer (at least not in NY). This is part of the reason why appeals to authority are bad arguments. The fact of the matter is dependant on much more relevant facts. Irrespective of whether Nilay is a lawyer, the central question is whether he is right.

He’s right in the practical sense that Disney is not going to lose it’s trademark by dilution for not going after esty sellers. That market isn’t really big enough to make a huge dent in the view of trademark law. On the other hand, he’s wrong in the sense that it is possible that the mark is weakened by not enforcing it in as many places as possible (i.e. a death by a thousand cuts situation).

It is so sad to watch these greedy corp go after the people who support them… It was thanks to those people who share their interest and craft that I became aware of this baby yoda and the star wars origin series… since when etsy sellers can produce the amount of baby yoda plush… for the big market. Their official pplush is so low quality btw.

If they were doing it for the love of it, they’d make one for themselves. They’re making as many as possible and selling them for money. Let’s not pretend these are simply fans being beaten down by the evil corporation, they’re in it for the money same as Disney. The difference is Disney owns the idea, they do not.

It is so sad to watch these greedy corp go after the people who support them

I’ll never understand this PoV.

If you created a successful and marketable character, a character that you are paying someone to market and sell products of and someone else (many others) started selling merch with YOUR character design – would you let it go? You’ve put all this money into everything that makes this character popular and you don’t make a dime from people who’ve decided to tack the name on to products they’re selling, and you’re ok with that?

I think not.

It was thanks to those people who share their interest and craft that I became aware of this baby yoda and the star wars origin series

That’s doesn’t give them the right to sole profit from Disney’s IP. It doesn’t matter is their volume is low or high quality.

I mean, maybe you think that this is fair or OK, but greedy corp or not (and I completely agree that Disney is as greedy as they come…), they are entitled to making something from the sale of their IP, imho – because if the shoe were on my foot, I certainly wouldn’t be happy that the work I put into something is solely benefittng someone else than me monetarily.

I agree but Disney doesn’t pay companies to make its products – it’s the other way around.

Companies pay Disney HUGE sums to use their various licenses.

1) If they were interested in making dimes, they would sue for a cut of every sale, not to shut people down. They’re interested not so much in making dimes, but strangling every dime they can out of the marketplace.

2) These markets would hardly exist if Disney hadn’t inexplicably screwed up the merch for The Mandalorian. That little green dude should have been waiting on the shelf at every Target and Walmart in the country a half hour before the debut episode went live.

IP law is almost exclusively a fraudulent concept, and it is more and more being used by the biggest players to elbow everyone else out of the market.

And I’ll never understand people’s needs to defend corporations that have a whole battalion of lawyers on payroll to do it for them

Disney’s kennel of attack lawyers have been given the mandate to destroy all Baby Yoda knockoffs, Star Wars fan films and other horrors. Sure, none of these in isolation are a threat, but cumulatively they could become a threat in some vague hand-wavy future where the world is inundated by fake Baby Yodas.

Lawyers tend to just do things because they are told to. It’s utter overkill but they get paid handsomely by the hour.

He did the exact opposite of that.

Did you just assume tim591’s gender?!

…but isn’t this a specific trademark situation? when is a trademark situation non-specific?

This isn’t how copyright or trademark works at all.

The Supreme Court has said you can choose not to defend for years and yet successfully sue for damages and/or an injunction.

What you can’t do is something affirmative causing parties using the IP to rely on that choice not to defend. In that case, you have an estoppel.

"This isn’t how copyright or trademark works at all."

Bottom line – Are you suggesting that IP owners defending their IP is somehow irregular?

I’m pretty sure you’re not.

Look, a bunch of civilians in this thread who love baby Yoda and probably can’t spell IP are upset that big bad Disney is protecting its IP. There is nothing wrong with that – period.

Just like Toys R Us used to send a cease and desist letter to any company, no matter how small, with a backward "R" in its name. That’s the law, and that’s business. IP is in the US constitution FFS, it’s not something Disney made up. Although it’s done a good job of extending it through lobbying.

Civilians?

Non-lawyers, non-business professionals.

Law and business, and the intersection of the two, has gotten complex enough over the last, say, 40 years that there are a lot of people who simply don’t really understand fuck-all about either. Those people are who I referring to as civilians.

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