Trials & Litigation

Mattel Loses Latest Bratz Doll Trial, Owes MGA $88M, Possibly Trebled

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A verdict has been reached by a federal jury in a copyright infringement case filed by Barbie manufacturer Mattel Inc. over MGA Entertainment’s popular Bratz dolls.

In a major reversal of fortune for Mattel, which won a $100 million award in an earlier trial of the same case and had sought damages of as much as $1 billion, the jury in the Santa Ana, Calif., retrial held that the Bratz line did not infringe on Mattel’s copyright. Plus, it awarded MGA nearly $88.5 million in damages against Mattel, saying that the toymaker willfully and maliciously appropriated trade secrets, reports the Associated Press.

MGA attorney Annette Hurst says the finding of willfulness gives the judge in the case the power to treble the damages award.

That may not be all, however, according to the Los Angeles Times, which says that it took much of the morning for a 28-page verdict form to be read in court and indicates that additional damages may have been awarded.

MGA Chief Executive Isaac Larian, an Iranian immigrant, wept as the verdict was read, saying afterward: “The American dream lives. This is a victory for all entrepreneurs, immigrants who came here. They cannot be bullied. It’s been an emotional battle. I feel vindicated.”

Hurst described the ruling as “a total, stunning victory.”

Lawyers for Mattel looked shellshocked at the verdict, the newspaper reports.

The case turns on when a designer who worked for Mattel came up with the idea for the Bratz dolls, Bloomberg explains.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the initial $100 million verdict and ordered a retrial after finding that a district court judge had erred in determining that an employment agreement between the designer and Mattel, as a matter of law, gave the company ownership of the Bratz brand.

The designer, Carter Bryant, says he got the idea for the dolls while living with his parents in Missouri. He worked for Mattel before and after this period.

Related coverage: (July 2010): “9th Circuit Rules for Bratz Doll Maker MGA, Says It’s Entitled to ‘Sweat Equity’” (Aug. 2010): “Bratz Maker MGA Accuses Mattel GC and Quinn Emanuel in Alleged RICO Toy-Spying Conspiracy” (Feb. 2011): “Bratz Maker Files Antitrust Suit Claiming Mattel Had a ‘Litigate MGA to Death’ Strategy”

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