Artist Frida Kahlo's family says judge blocks improper use of brand

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A Mexican judge has blocked a company associated with U.S. toymaker Mattel Inc from commercializing the image of artist Frida Kahlo, her family says, as it seeks to halt sales of a Barbie doll styled after the influential artist.

Mattel, which manufactures Hot Wheels toys and Barbies, launched an “inspiring women” series of dolls featuring the late painter in March.

The company said at the time that it had reached an agreement to manufacture the doll with the Frida Kahlo Corporation, which says on its website that it owns the trademark rights to the artist’s image worldwide.

But Mara Romero, Kahlo’s grand niece, has told local media that the rights belong to her and her family.

In a Twitter post on Wednesday, the family’s official account, @FridaKahlo, wrote that a Mexico City judge had ordered the Frida Kahlo Corporation to stop using the “brand, image and work of the illustrious painter Frida Kahlo” without permission from the owner of the rights.

Reuters was unable to determine to which court the family was referring, and the family did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Neither did representatives for Mattel in Mexico.

The Frida Kahlo Corporation, in an emailed statement, said: “It will continue its activities within the framework of respect for the law and in the exercise of its constitutional rights.”

The corporation maintains it received the rights to the artist from Kahlo’s niece Isolda Pineda.

“Since the relatives of Isolda Pineda have not put forward their claim, within the period established by law and as indicated by the judge, these precautionary measures must be declared unsubstantiated in the coming hours,” the corporation said.

Kahlo’s image and her extensive body of work have been widely commercialized as the artist’s popularity has grown.

Since her death in 1954, Kahlo, who was married to Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, has been regarded as one of the greatest painters of the 20th century for her moving and intimate self -portraits, reflecting her personal experience of pain and isolation.

Mattel’s Barbie also drew the family’s ire because it lacks the artist’s signature unibrow, which has become a symbol of her feminist stance.

Reporting by Diego Ore; Writing by Julia Love; Editing by Dan Grebler and Leslie Adler