In The Valley of The Dolls, Mattel Prevails Over Bratz

Posted by: Stacy Perman on July 18, 2008

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After a seven week trial in U.S. District Court, yesterday a jury ruled in favor of giant toymaker Mattel in its federal copyright infringement case against MGA Entertainment, the company behind the wildly successful Bratz dolls.

Mattel claimed that it owned the rights to Bratz (which MGA has spun out into an estimated $1 billion licensing empire) because its creator, Carter Bryant, came up with the line while he was under contract at Mattel, as a Barbie designer. Mattel’s lawyers argued that Bryant signed an agreement giving Mattel the rights to anything he designed while there. The jury agreed.

During the trial Bryant testified that he shared his Bratz designs with MGA in 1998 during an eight month break between two working tours with Mattel, one in September 1995 and April 1998 and the second in January 1999 and October 2000.

Ever since the multi-ethnic Bratz dolls arrived in 2001, sales at Mattel, the maker of Barbie have dropped steadily. For decades, clean cut Barbie was the dominant doll of choice for girls. Then along came Bratz dolls with their large-heads, pouty lips and sassy hip-hop influenced style, shaking up a complacent Mattel and Barbie’s place in girls’ bedrooms all over the world.

At stake, is possibly hundreds of millions of dollars in damages for Mattel which is also seeking an injunction to stop MGA from selling the Bratz franchise.

There is something else to consider however. Scores of small businesses get their start by entrepreneurs who dream up new ideas while working for large corporations. Had Bryant stayed at Mattel, who is to say the world’s largest toymaker would have manufactured Bratz. It is standard practice to sign “inventions agreements” that give a company proprietary rights to one’s designs while employed. It is something to strongly consider when doodling on company time. The notion that one’s ideas are owned by a corporate body can also be a costly one as Bryant, Mattel, and Isaac Larian, MGA’s CEO have found out. How costly remains to be seen. The jury is now set to begin the damages phase of the trial.

Reader Comments

Ellen

July 18, 2008 04:20 PM

I see a small error in this story. Carter Bryant did not work at Mattel as a Barbie Designer. He worked on Barbie Fashions. That being the case, I'm sure Mattel would have had no interest in the Bratz. Mattels dolls were so boringly wholesome and fairy-like before Bratz forced them to ramp it up.
What will happen now? Will we, once again, have this monopoly on playline fashion dolls? Is this the only way Mattel can be a success? Being the only player in the game, I'm sure the Mattel dolls would revert back to the princess look with the shoddily made clothes. This is a blow for consumers who feel that competition is good. It forces companies to strive for a good product. We lose.

James

July 18, 2008 05:32 PM

I feel like many people suffer with their inventions and ideas getting gulped up by their employer because of these "invention agreements," especially in technology-centric environments. If you have a great idea at work and you want to take it mainstream for yourself, DONT SHARE IT! Here's how to get started with growing the idea into a business... www.readtheanswer.com/index.php?RTA=web2

Felix

July 18, 2008 10:28 PM

yeha, i can't agree with you any more.
www.topbrandbiz.net

hafv

July 19, 2008 03:11 AM

Hi um... I do not no what to say ? Ok so my comment is I like that pitcher !!!

Zigler

July 19, 2008 10:15 PM

In the long run and in the macro point of view, this decision...although it may be morally and legally right...the decision will have this negative effect: punching down innovation, opportunities of creating wealth (extremely hard to do) which the country sorely needs at this time. Monopolistic effect will only bring down the country's standing and its chance to rise back to where it once stood. A suggestion - make it a phyrric victory. Charge US$1 for damages. The country needs its entrepreneurial heroes to bring itself out of economic paralysis. It doesn't need to cut them down to pieces. It's time for survival yet we must still abide by the rule of law. Extraordinary times require extraordinary flexibility but make sure long term survival and growth must transcend all other concerns and we must balance between what is morally or legally right and what is the greater right - that right of survival, the right of progress and the right of pursing growth - and to get as many global allies as we can to achieve this mutual growth. This decision has a cascading effect and will influence many multilateral, multifaceted individual decisions that will inherently affect those who will one day will lift the country back up. This too must be considered. Good Luck.

Miki

July 19, 2008 10:57 PM

Mattel has a history of litigating companies to death in courtrooms around America. I think it's sad if Mattel gets the entire Bratz franchise. Barbie was sickenly wholesome and boring before Bratz. Frankly they aren't much better now. But with the competition of Bratz begining in 2001, Barbie did sit up and take notice. I think that the consumer in the end will loose if Mattel gets the Bratz franchise. More than one company producing fashion dolls of high quality are better than just one. Let's hope that somehow, MGA Entertainment comes back in a powerful way and this time hits Goliath right between the eyes!

luca( from italy)

July 22, 2008 01:07 PM

HELLO I'M FROM ITALY,I THINK MATTEL IT'S ONLY JELOUS FOR THE BIG BRATZ SUCCESS!!! I HOPE AND PRAY FOR MGA!
THE BRATZ DOLL HAVE A GREAT FUTURE!
IN ITALY,EUROPE,USA AND THE REST OF WORLD IT'S A DOLL WINNER!
BARBIE TODAY IS PART OF PAST...
W BRAZT!!

Angela

July 22, 2008 05:16 PM

I also had an uncle that while working for a large corporation invented a new product but was unable to take the patent or the money for himself because he designed it while working for the company. I think this ruling is only fair (because even my uncle) would never have had the personal time to invest, nor the idea if he would not have been employed "on company time" to think about it, experiment with it, perfect it. These people were receiving good money and their "time" and the result of their "work time" belongs to their employer!

FurJay

July 23, 2008 01:15 AM

Mattel is horrible. What other company does what they do? Nobody, only Mattel.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=t5jmSKEaqtk

vmantillo

July 23, 2008 01:45 PM

Wow to stiffle an entrepreneurial dream before it starts, How does a corporate entity know when the big idea enters one's head? Besides it is the boring corporate environment that breeds a big idea. Anyone who has a job has always known he or she could do better than the idiot running the show. And the "How do I get out of here" dream develops but the usually low corporate wages keeps people from chasing their dream.

Carter Bryant made a popular icon and Mattel couldn't handle it.

Adelina

August 13, 2008 04:20 PM

Gee... why did Mattel have to wait until it became a $1 billion dollar empire? Why didn't they do something from conception. That's just low of Mattel.

Lawlady

December 4, 2008 04:54 PM

At the end of the day, a contract is a contract. If the jury decided that the Bratz creator was in violation, that's the end of the issue. Mattel's motivation; jealousy, petty greed, whatever, is irrelevant. The only thing that suprises me is that the snotty-looking, slutty-dressing Bratz dolls became popular in the first place. To each their own, I suppose...

Karisma

December 22, 2008 05:34 PM

I think that Mattell should stop beating around the bush. They are Jealous of all that Bratz have accomplished. Furthermore, I think that if Mattell payed any intrest in this at all they would've made it a hit themselves. but, they didn't. In Conclusion for all of you out there that think Bratz are slutty look at Myscene dolls they are just as bad.

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What's it like to run your own company today? Entrepreneurs face multiple hurdles new and old, from raising capital and managing employees to keeping up with technology and competing in a global marketplace. In this blog, the Small Business channel's John Tozzi and Nick Leiber discuss the news, trends, and ideas that matter to small business owners. Follow them on Twitter @newentrepreneur.

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