Thursday, April 21, 2011, 4/21/2011 01:29:00 PM

Bratz Jury Verdict In: MGA Wins Big and Mattel Loses Big

By Todd


The Los Angeles Times is reporting that the jury sided with the maker of Bratz dolls, MGA Entertainment Inc., over Mattel in the retrial over who owns the rights to the billion-dollar franchise.



The decision came Thursday morning in federal court in Santa Ana, capping eight days of jury deliberations, nearly three months of testimony and years of corporate bickering. Dozens of spectators packed U.S. District Judge David O. Carter's courtroom for the announcement, including the chief executives of both companies.



The eight-person jury, made up of four men and four women, rejected Mattel's copyright infringement claims; said Mattel did not own the rights to the dolls, early models or accessories; and said MGA did not steal trade secrets.



Awards of monetary damages in the case were read in court much of Thursday morning, and it was clear that Mattel would owe MGA millions of dollars. On MGA's claims that Mattel stole trade secrets, for instance, the jury decided that Mattel owed its rival $88.5 million.






Mattel has long argued that MGA stole the concept for Bratz. The company maintains that Carter Bryant, Bratz's creator and a former Barbie designer, came up with the idea for the dolls in 1999 during his second stint with the company. The company said Bryant violated the terms of his "inventions agreement" by taking the idea for the wildly popular multiethnic dolls known for their oversized heads, pouty lips and sexy clothing to rival MGA, which went on to produce and market the billion-dollar franchise.



Bryant testified that he conceived of Bratz in 1998 when he was on a break from Mattel and living with his parents in Missouri -- an assertion often attacked in court by Mattel lawyers, who said Bryant was engaged in a massive cover-up with Larian.



During the first trial in 2008, a jury in Riverside sided with Mattel. The company, which had claimed copyright infringement and breach of contract, was awarded $100 million in damages; MGA was ordered to turn over the franchise to Mattel and stop making and selling Bratz products.



That decision was overturned last year by a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that MGA deserved credit for manufacturing and marketing the dolls. The appeals court said Mattel couldn't claim a monopoly over dolls with a bratty attitude.



This time around, jurors heard not only the copyright claims but also accusations from both companies that the other side stole trade secrets. MGA accused Mattel of sending employees into its showrooms at industry trade shows to spy on their products.



During long hours of testimony during the retrial, jurors were presented with an arsenal of star witnesses, damaging e-mails and dozens of dolls.

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