Judges May Reconsider Handing All Bratz Dolls Over To Mattel

from the going-too-far dept

We were pretty shocked when a judge ordered doll maker MGA to hand over pretty much everything having to do with Bratz dolls to Mattel, the maker of Barbie — one of the key products Bratz competes against. While some of the facts are disputed by various parties, it does seem pretty clear that a Mattel designer was working on the concept of Bratz and then went to MGA to make the dolls instead. Mattel claims that it owns the entire concept because its contract with the designer included all rights to things he worked on while under their employ. Even if you accept all that, it seemed to go too far to not just provide monetary payments and/or an injunction, but to tell MGA to hand over the entire line of dolls including future plans for the dolls. That seems to go well beyond the scope of what’s reasonable — and it seems like the appeals court might agree. It has lifted the original deadline for when MGA had to transfer stuff over to Mattel and seems to be considering whether itself goes too far, saying that handing all of that over to Mattel seemed “draconian.”

Even if we grant that the designer created the dolls while he worked at Mattel, it takes more than just an idea to be successful. Yet this ruling seems to put the entire value of not just the Bratz line of dolls, but every forward thinking innovation in the Bratz line, into that single idea. That’s going way too far. Sure, perhaps there should be some sort of sanctions or punishment, but MGA did a lot more than just see this idea, snap its fingers and have a success on its hands. The execution was what made it work, and it seems silly to ignore all of that and assume that the entire value is in the idea — and everything else needs to be handed over because the guy had the idea while still at Mattel.

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Companies: mattel, mga entertainment

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Comments on “Judges May Reconsider Handing All Bratz Dolls Over To Mattel”

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26 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

The problem of the Bratz dolls is that everything that happened is the old “fruit of the poisoned tree”. If the idea has not been hatched at Mattel (and as a result paid for by Mattel), the rest of it would never have happened. You just have to look at cause and effect to see that it’s pretty much a no brainer.

Without the time and development that happened on Mattel’s dime, they would be marketing nothing, promoting nothing, and selling nothing.

While the original ruling seems strong, in the end it is a pretty logical conclusion, the only one that makes Mattel “whole” again.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re:

While the original ruling seems strong, in the end it is a pretty logical conclusion, the only one that makes Mattel “whole” again.

And really upsets all the custiomers. I’m sure glad I don’t have a daughter in the right age bracket!

What Mattel “paid” ie their investment in the business amounts to a few hours of one man’s time – a tiny fraction of the set up costs for Bratz. Also it’s presumably because they estranged the guy by NOT taking up his ideas in the first place….

Prediction – the victory will be pyrrhic – Mattel will not be “whole” until they get on with their own business and get out of the business of spiteful “dog in the manger” lawsuits.
Jarndyce and Jarndyce ….

The Judge says:

Re: Re: Re:2 To Richard

You must not have read the original post as your comment is completely unrelated to the point being made.

Original argument was the designer had the right to sell the idea he created while in Mattel’s payroll because Mattel didn’t use it. “it’s presumably because they estranged the guy by NOT taking up his ideas in the first place”.

Counter-argument was that by this rationale “if I sell you my car, but instead of driving it every day you decide to have it parked in your garage, that means I can “STEAL” your car from you and resell it to someone else”.

Mattel had the RIGHT to the idea, it bought the idea by paying the designers salary. It did not have an OBLIGATION to use it. Moreover, it has been proven in court that the designer NEVER presented the idea to Mattel.

Your point has NOTHING to do with the argument at hand.

Derek Bredensteiner (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“the rest of it would never have happened. You just have to look at cause and effect to see that it’s pretty much a no brainer.”

I can’t imagine that someone who speaks as lucidly as you do actually takes that seriously. That’s like saying without the idea of a small plastic doll, none of these companies would exist, so they should hand over all their assets to whomever decided to make a plastic doll first.

All of the time and money spent on Bratz to take it from an idea into an actual product is worth less than the original concept? It’s not even like saying that our society values the unique idea. It’s saying that idea x to make a big headed doll is worth a billion times more than idea y to market dolls on nickelodeon or idea z to make dolls out of some resin composite to save money. There’s a lot of “ideas” that go into making a product, why would you place so much value on idea x and not on y and z?

Derek Bredensteiner (profile) says:

To those who would defend the value of the idea of Bratz

These ideas are not wholly unique or wholly original. They are not infinitely more valuable than every other idea that’s thought of and used every single day.

Everyone has ideas and a lot of those help make things happen, make products better and make the world turn. Most people use their idea, take credit for it, progress, and then use more ideas to keep moving themselves (and others) forward. These ideas are not necessarily unique, or wholly original, but they add something to the conversation and make things better. A new ad campaign, a new pamphlet more clearly showing how to install DSL, a new report gathering combined information about your customers that allows a new improved sales process. These are ideas, they happen all the time, and if we patented and copyrighted and “protected” every single one, we’d never get anywhere.

Those who file patents and file suit are the exceptions. The leeches on the underbelly of society slowing the progress of mankind and I hope that they have no illusions otherwise. It’s not just a drain on society as a whole, it’s bad for every individual too. It slows the leech down too, and it’s sad to see when there’s so much more potential there.

I ain't got no name says:

Barbie Fan

all my life I was on Barbies side of things. Back when I was ten, I thought Barbie was always better than Bratz. But now I think it’s stupid what Mattel is doing even though this event took place several years ago. Now they’ve made a big mess and they’re not even considering what the kids think about this… cuz I bet there are a lot of unhappy girls out there wishing that they would have their favorite dolls back.

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