Why Should Mattel Get Future Plans For New Bratz Dolls?

from the gross-injustice dept

Last year, we wrote about a somewhat horrific court ruling against MGA Entertainment, the makers of Bratz dolls, after getting sued by Mattel. If you don't follow the doll business, Bratz is really the first doll to successfully compete against the massively successful Barbie franchise in ages. However, the guy who came up with Bratz had worked at Mattel prior to going off on his own. Of course, this is the history of many different innovative companies. If you come up with a better idea while working at one company, it's a good thing that you can go off and build your own company. As we pointed out at the time, this is the story of plenty of successful tech companies. Steve Wozniak was at HP when he built the first Apple computer (and continued to work there for some time after Apple was moving forward). Robert Noyce helped found Fairchild (and later Intel) after growing frustrated at Shockley Transistor. Hell, William Shockley founded Shockley Transistor after feeling he didn't get enough respect at Bell Labs. Yet, here's a toy designer at Mattel who's entire operation is getting shut down because he came up with the idea while still employed at Mattel?

Even if you grant the somewhat troubling premise that the concept for the dolls was created at Mattel, at best you could make an argument that Mattel had some rights to an injunction and profits from the first generation of those dolls. Yet, the judge not only ruled that, but also that MGA had to give up all such dolls, and hand over all sorts of confidential info, including "all related products, designs, customer information and 'know-how' for a planned 2010 Bratz line." It's difficult to see any justification at all for forcing them to hand over future plans that had nothing to do with what the guy created while still at Mattel. MGA has now filed an emergency appeal, noting that if it does hand over such info and assets, it would have "devastating and irreversible consequences," which seems quite accurate. All in all, this seems like Mattel simply trying to stop competition, and it's a shame that the US court system seems to be helping.

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  1. identicon
    Duane, 10 Dec 2009 @ 11:51am

    It's not over yet, but...

    ...the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has stayed the Bratz recall until it makes its final ruling, and has ordered MGA and Mattel to settle this dispute out of court. What that means is that MGA's Bratz will remain on the shelves at least past the January 21, 2010 deadline that would have sent what Bratz product is currently on store shelves to its doom.

    Finally, judges with reason are looking at this case! Overlooking the mistrial that should have occurred when the one juror made racist comments pertaining to MGA's Iranian-born CEO, I can understand the ruling that awarded Mattel the initial $100 million, but for Larson, who accepted the jury's verdict, to just decide to hand over the ENTIRE Bratz franchise, including the numerous characters and concepts that Mattel had absolutely no hand in creating, to Mattel was mind-boggling, and the way that it was to be done seemed like he was especially trying to stick it to MGA.

    As much as this could be seen as a victory for MGA, I wonder if the damage hasn't already been done. I've seen Bratz sales dwindle to nearly zero at my neighborhood stores. Even if MGA eventually is allowed to make and sell Bratz legally again, will the pallor of the legal shenanigans by Mattel and their lackey Larson (yes, I am saying that he was in their pocket; why else would he have ruled the way he did?) continue to hang over the Bratz and impede their sales? Let's hope not.

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