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Mattel seeks nearly $2B in fight over Bratz dolls

Mattel seeks nearly $2B in fight over Bratz dolls

The maker of pouty-lipped Bratz dolls owes toy giant Mattel Inc. nearly $2 billion for stealing its conceptual drawings for the urban-themed toys, a Mattel attorney said Wednesday during closing arguments in the damages phase of a copyright infringement lawsuit.
The jury ruled last month in the first phase of the federal trial that the designer of MGA Entertainment Inc.'s Bratz dolls, Carter Bryant, came up with the concept while working for Mattel.
The jury also found that Los Angeles-based MGA aided in the breach of contract, and its chief executive officer, Isaac Larian, played a role in the deal.
In his closing arguments, Mattel attorney John Quinn said MGA owed Mattel at least $1 billion in Bratz profits and interest, while Larian owed nearly $800 million for his complicity.
"I'm well aware that the numbers we're talking about here are very substantial," Quinn told jurors.
Quinn said MGA had never had a hit toy and had lost more than $6 million in 2000, the year before the Bratz dolls came on the market with their "anime-style" eyes, pouty lips and revealing outfits.
MGA has since made profits of nearly $778 million on Bratz, which exploded in popularity among "tweens" _ girls 7 to 12, he said. The highly stylized fashion dolls have oversized feet, heads and hands, curling lashes and huge, almond-shaped eyes daubed with exotic-colored eyeshadow.
"In history, there have only been two successful fashion dolls _ Barbie and Bratz _ and Mr. Larian and Mr. Bryant stole one of those," Quinn said. "The numbers are what they are ... and the law says when you profit by taking someone else's confidential information, you have to give it back."
MGA attorneys were scheduled to deliver their closing arguments later in the day. Larian has insisted that MGA independently created the Bratz dolls and will prevail in the damages phase or possibly in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Sales of Barbie, a near right-of-passage in American girlhood, have slid since Bratz's Yasmin, Cloe, Jade and Sasha came on the scene seven years ago. Since then, MGA has introduced a number of spin-offs and related products, including Bratz Boyz, Bratz Petz and Baby Bratz, as well as glitzy outfits and accessories that go with each character.
Domestic sales of Barbie were down 15 percent in 2007 and 12 percent in the first quarter of 2008, while international sales increased 6 percent in 2008 as opposed to 12 percent the previous year.
In its lawsuit, filed in 2004, Mattel alleged that Bryant, the Bratz designer, came up with the idea while working at Mattel and therefore the company owned the copyright and the profits.
The timing of Bryant's creation was key to Mattel's suit.
Mattel attorneys maintained that Bryant worked for the company between September 1995 and April 1998 and then returned to Mattel between January 1999 and October 2000.
He signed an agreement that gave Mattel the right to anything he designed while employed there, the lawyers argued.
But Bryant testified during the six-week trial that the sketches he showed MGA in 2000 were transferred from originals he made in the summer of 1998 _ between his two employment stints with Mattel.
Bryant settled with Mattel on the eve of trial. The terms of the agreement have not been disclosed.
During closing arguments, Quinn flipped through photos of Bryant's original drawings and compared them to the packaged Bratz dolls that debuted in 2001. He pointed out similarities between the drawings and the dolls, including nearly identical outfits and a tiny mole that appeared on one doll's cheek in the drawing and on the final product.
"The only question is, is the finished product when it comes to market substantially similar to the original drawing?" he said. "You have to judge this not from the standpoint of a professional (doll) sculptor ... but from the standpoint of a child. That's the law."


Updated : 2021-05-07 08:46 GMT+08:00