Baby Einstein Co-Founder Goes to Court Over TV Studies

Filed under: In The News

Baby Einstein DVDs are displayed at a Borders book store. Credit: Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

A co-founder of the popular "Baby Einstein" videos is going to court to clear the names of his wife and himself, despite the fact that they currently have no financial stake in the company, which is now owned by The Walt Disney Co.

Damning research from the University of Washington that linked television viewing by young children to attention problems and delayed language development motivated co-founder William Clark to petition the courts for access to the study's raw data and methodology, The New York Times reports.

"All we're asking for is the basis for what the university has represented to be groundbreaking research," Clark said in a statement released Jan. 11. "Given that other research studies have not shown the same outcomes, we would like the raw data and analytical methods from the Washington studies so we can audit their methodology, and perhaps duplicate the studies, to see if the outcomes are the same."Clark petitioned a judge to order the university to release records relating to the study.

Baby Einstein was in the news in October 2009 when Walt Disney offered refunds on the popular video series after the threat of a class-action lawsuit for unfair and deceptive marketing practices. Lawyers in that case allege that the company sold the videos under false pretenses -- specifically, that they enhanced a child's development. Research like that from the University of Washington would appear to negate that claim.

Clark said he has been seeking information from the university for several years, but his requests have been denied or did not meet his expectations, the Times reports. A spokesman for the university told the newspaper that the institution's lawyers had yet read the complaint and therefore he could not comment.

"All I can tell you is that we gave them the records we had," Norm Arkans, a spokesman for the university, tells the Times.

Clark and his wife, Julie Aigner-Clark, started the company in 1996. Despite a 1999 recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics stating that kids under 2 should not be exposed to television, titles like "Baby Mozart" and "Baby Van Gogh" quickly caught on with parents.

The Clarks sold the company to Walt Disney in 2001. In an e-mail to the Times, Aigner-Clark said the two are pursuing legal action to clear their name. "I'm proud of what I made," she wrote.

Related: Speech and Language Development

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