April 17, 2024

Jury Rebuffs Mattel, Giving Bratz Dolls Rights to a Rival

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A federal jury on Thursday rejected Mattel’s claims that it owns the copyright to the blockbuster billion-dollar Bratz dolls and instead awarded an upstart rival, MGA Entertainment, more than $88 million in damages for misappropriation of trade secrets.

The jury, which deliberated for nearly two weeks after a three-month trial, also found that Mattel had acted willfully and maliciously in misappropriating MGA’s trade secrets. MGA lawyers said that raised the possibility the judge could increase the damages by up to three times the jury’s award.

The verdict will allow MGA to regain control of its flagship fashion doll, which was introduced in 2001, and to once again try to compete with Mattel’s Barbie doll.

“If Mattel had won this lawsuit, MGA would have been wiped out, and that’s what Mattel wanted to do,” MGA’s lawyer, Jennifer L. Keller, said.

Mattel’s chief executive, Robert A. Eckert, who was present for the verdict, said in a statement that the company was disappointed.

“But we remain committed to protecting the intellectual property that is at the heart of business success,” the statement said. “Mattel’s first priority is, and always has been, to make and sell the best toys in the world.”

Mattel first sued MGA more than six years ago, claiming the Bratz designer Carter Bryant had been working for Mattel when he designed the dolls.

Hundreds of millions of dollars in potential damages and the rights to a blockbuster toy were at stake in the case, which cost each side millions in legal fees as it dragged on.

MGA’s chief executive, Isaac Larian, openly wept while listening to the verdicts. Despite the verdict, he questioned whether Bratz dolls would be able to make a comeback in the aftermath of the suit.

“Mattel killed the Bratz brand. It is never going to be the same level as it was before,” he said.

Still, he hoped the verdict would send a message to Mattel that it was not all right to bully small-time entrepreneurs trying to break into the industry.

“I think justice prevailed in the end,” Mr. Larian said. “Hopefully this will be a major lesson for Mattel.”

MGA has always denied Mattel’s copyright claims and countersued the larger company on the grounds of misappropriation of trade secrets and unfair business practices by engaging in corporate espionage at toy fairs and conspiring to keep Bratz products off retail shelves.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=a7f7985772630ca194d5ed2b40360273

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