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It's Finally Over: 8 Years Of Mattel vs. Bratz And No One's Getting Paid But The Lawyers

from the suddenly,-law-school-looks-like-a-good-idea-again dept

One of the more epic IP battles has come to an end. Mattel (Barbie) and MGA Entertainment (Bratz), have spent most of a decade in various courtrooms hashing out the ultra-serious question about which of these companies is entitled to the Bratz millions.

Long story short, a former Mattel employee left the company and crafted one of the first serious threats to Barbie's dominance, the Bratz dolls. Mattel, of course, was none too happy because the designer was still employed by Mattel when he came up with the idea. Mattel felt it owned the idea and sued the designer in an effort to make that a reality. From that point on it went from bad to worse to farcical. At one point, the court ordered MGA to turn over all future plans for the Bratz line... which was then reversed... which was reversed by a lower court... which was re-reversed by the original court. This led to counterclaims flying from both directions and the last we had heard, Mattel, which had originally filed the suit, was being hit with a judgment for $309 million in damages, including MGA's court fees. Adding that together with Mattel's legal expenses, and this fight over dolls put Mattel on the hook for nearly $700 million.

Now, it appears the fight is finally over. And, like many long legal battles, the lawyers are the only ones coming out ahead.
The long-running IP war between Mattel Inc. and MGA Entertainment Inc. over the Bratz line of dolls has ended — for now — with zero damages.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Thursday laid waste to Bratz maker MGA's $170 million trade secret award — an award procured on retrial after the appeals court wiped out Barbie maker Mattel's $100 million copyright verdict and constructive trust.

But MGA gets the last laugh. The Ninth Circuit left untouched $137 million in attorney fees and costs awarded to MGA for defending against Mattel's copyright claims.
Yes, the old truism (that I made up right now) "The only true winner in our legal system is MGA's lawyers" is proven once again in this case specifically. MGA won't be collecting any damages but at least its legal team lives on to fight another day -- possibly tomorrow, from the sound of its sore winner statement:
CEO Isaac Larian promised to retry the company's trade secret claims to a new jury. "We are confident that when the second jury hears about Mattel's sneaking into our showrooms and egregious theft of scores of our secrets over the years, they will be even more appalled than the first jury and award MGA even greater damages," he said in the statement.
Mattel has fired back with about the only silver lining retort available after spending nearly 8 years in court: the statute of limitations. The court basically agrees with Mattel's half-defiant, half-white flag statement, ruling that MGA's counterclaim (the one that had originally awarded it $170 million in damages) was time-barred and by no means "compulsory."

This hasn't stopped MGA from proudly declaring this "windfall" (which will all be going right back in its lawyers' pockets) to be the "largest fee and cost award in a copyright infringement case in US history." True, it's better than coming out of the battle stuck with the legal bill, but this misplaced joie de vivre makes it seem as though MGA will be presenting the award to Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in the form of an oversized novelty check in front of gathered members of the sympathetic press and assorted minor local politicians.



Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 29th, 2013 @ 4:13am

    This hasn't stopped MGA from proudly declaring this "windfall" (which will all be going right back in its lawyers' pockets) to be the "largest fee and cost award in a copyright infringement case in US history."

    I'm not sure what's to be proud of. Turning copyright into a battle of who has more money to squander for the courts is only going to destroy whatever respect people have left for the existing system.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Michael, Jan 29th, 2013 @ 4:19am

    Re:

    is only going to destroy whatever respect people have left for the existing system

    Well, I guess that is a bit of a silver lining at least.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 29th, 2013 @ 4:32am

    They all seem to be acting like brats

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    Kenneth Michaels, Jan 29th, 2013 @ 4:58am

    Lawyers don't get the money

    The lawyers already got paid by their client. The attorney fee "reward" goes to MGA to reimburse it for the reasonable legal fees it already paid. It restores MGA to the position it should be in, as though the frivolous suit had never been filed. Lawyers don't get paid twice.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 29th, 2013 @ 5:43am

    Meh

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
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    Josef Anvil (profile), Jan 29th, 2013 @ 6:00am

    Re: Lawyers don't get the money

    Lawyers do get paid twice. Not the same lawyers though. Both the plaintiff and defense have to pay their lawyers.

    While this was a difficult case to sort through, I just don't understand why it should cost over $300 million in legal fees for a final decision in the case.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    New Mexico Mark, Jan 29th, 2013 @ 6:28am

    As a father...

    Bratz -- a deplorable line of dolls
    Barbie -- a deplorable line of dolls, but for entirely different reasons
    Mattel and MGA -- two deplorable groups of lawyers and CEOs, for all the usual reasons

    Life imitating art or art imitating life? Hard to tell sometimes.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 29th, 2013 @ 6:32am

    Re:

    You seem to have spelled Bratz wrong.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    Prashanth (profile), Jan 29th, 2013 @ 6:40am

    Age of fan

    So a child born at the start of this lawsuit would have probably outgrown these toys by now. That's pretty pathetic.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 29th, 2013 @ 7:25am

    A core part of democracy is that 'everyone is equal before law'. How the hell can people be equal before law, if justice under said law costs millions (and thus cannot be afforded by a majority of its citizens)?

    My only logical conclusion is that either: USA is not a democracy (rather a very poor attempt at one) OR that its justice system is unconstitutional.

    The same can be said about a lot of western countries :(

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    sburch79 (profile), Jan 29th, 2013 @ 7:51am

    Is it really that bad?

    Maybe I am biased, but isn't this good? Mattel tried to abuse the copyright system and was forced to pay for MGA's legal fees. Awards like this may encourage other attorneys to take low-income defendants(a relative term when it comes to this type of litigation). It may also discourages other copyright trolls.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    PBC, Jan 29th, 2013 @ 8:20am

    Not so true

    Bratz is getting paid. No damages, sure, but they getting to keep making a ton of money on a product that had they lost they wouldn't be entitled to the right to. The only way MGA could expect to get paid directly is from a countersuit calling Mattel malicious. Sad to say, but I think the system works - Mattel waged what was judged to be a needless legal battle, and since defending themselves cost a ton for MGA, Mattel had to step up and cover that for being judged as asshats.

     

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  13.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jan 29th, 2013 @ 10:14am

    Re:

    My only logical conclusion is that either: USA is not a democracy (rather a very poor attempt at one) OR that its justice system is unconstitutional.


    There's no "either" about that. They can both be, and are, true.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    Reality Check (profile), Jan 29th, 2013 @ 1:31pm

    Re: Re:

    Maybe he didn't want to be sued for using a trademark name... These lawyers don't seem to know what trademark really is these days. ^_^

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    peter baker, Jan 29th, 2013 @ 2:51pm

    Hubris?

    "Mattel's sneaking into our showrooms". Is this the same as 'walking into our open, public showroom' but with added hubris?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    Ninja (profile), Jan 30th, 2013 @ 3:17am

    So after 8 years of jelly/muddy fighting on an inflatable ring Barbie and Bratz have reached a draw.

    On a side note if they have that much money to throw around I'm accepting donations. I shall mail Mattel and Bratz my PayPal account.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 26th, 2013 @ 1:41am

    gay

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    Bratz Creator, Dec 30th, 2013 @ 12:02pm

    So funny!

    It's kind of ironic how some one who stole the Bratz name believes he's a winner...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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