In an April 2011 Associated Press video, University of Southern California intellectual property law expert Jack Lerner summarizes some of the issues in a long-running dispute between rival toy makers Mattel, Inc. and MGA Entertainment, Inc. over the billion-dollar Bratz doll line. Mattel first filed a lawsuit in 2004, alleging that the designer of the toys, Carter Bryant, violated his “inventions agreement” by taking his concept to MGA. Bratz went on to put a huge dent in sales for Mattel’s decades-long dominant Barbie line.
In 2008, a jury awarded Mattel $100 million in the copyright infringement case, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the verdict and ordered a new trial. The AP video follows the second trial, in which a jury rejected Mattel’s claims and awarded MGA $309 million in damages and legal fees. On January 24, the Ninth Circuit unanimously ruled that the trial judge was wrong to have allowed the jury to consider an MGA counterclaim that accused Mattel of misappropriating trade secrets. The federal appeals court tossed out $172 million in damages, reducing the MGA award to roughly $137 million.
In a nine-page opinion, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote, “While this may not be the last word on the subject, perhaps Mattel and MGA can take a lesson from their target demographic: Play nice.”
While Mattel spokesman Alan Hilowitz told the Los Angeles Times that the company was “pleased” with the ruling, MGA Chief Executive Isaac Larian said that the company “absolutely” plans to bring another lawsuit against Mattel for trade secret theft.
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