A bunch of folks have sent in the story that the ultra-popular "Bratz" dolls have been banned by a judge
following a long court case. The case revolved around a former employee of Mattel (makers of Barbie), who apparently developed the concept of the Bratz dolls while working there. However, he ended up going out on his own to produce them -- which is the history of an awful lot of American success stories over the years. Steve Wozniak developed the Apple computer while he was working at HP, but the company wasn't interested in making the machines. Robert Noyce (founder of both Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel) felt underappreciated at Shockley Transistor. There are plenty of stories of folks working at one company realizing that they could do a better job on their own -- and that leads to competition and innovation. There was also some evidence in the case suggesting the guy had actually developed the basic idea of Bratz well before he was even employed by Mattel, though it does sound like he continued to work on the idea on the side while employed there -- though only in designing the idea, not actually making the dolls. It was only after he had left Mattel that he actually moved forward with implementing the idea. To stop him from ever going to market with a doll concept he was thinking about for years just because he worked at Mattel seems ridiculous and very anti-competitive.
However, even if you grant that Mattel has some sort "ownership" over the ideas in this guy's head while he worked at Mattel, it should only apply to the first generation of Bratz dolls. However, the court has gone even further, barring everything
having to do with the Bratz dolls. Mattel, of course, is thrilled. Bratz had been the first really successful competitor to the Barbie franchise, and getting a court to shut it down completely is a huge win for Mattel. There will be an appeal, of course. The judge at least allowed the products to stay on the shelves through the holiday season, and it's quite likely that the appeals court will put a stay on the injunction until it hears the case. Even if it's eventually decided at higher courts that Bratz somehow infringe on Barbie intellectual property, it seems like a fine, rather than a complete injunction is a much more reasonable punishment.