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
    Anonymous Coward, 29 May 2009 @ 10:48am

    Happens all of the time ...

    Worked for a start-up where the guy had worked for several companies in the field during his career.
    The last company laid him off; he worked in a completely different field for three years and then started his own company in the industry he had been a part of before and developed a innovative less costly product.
    After he developed it, marked it and had sold a few units, a company (A large wealthy company) he had worked for six years earlier went to court in South Carolina and had a judge issue a TRO against his company and ordered them to cease all operations for “stealing” their non patented design and violating the spirit of a expired NDA (No non compete at all in place). Long story short … he didn’t have the money to buy lawyers to match their team of lawyers. Lost the case and was ordered to turn over ALL company records, computers, designs and hardware related to the product, and agree to NEVER work in the field again. I don’t know the exact details of the legal stuff but I know for a fact that the design was original and would have been popular in the market. He had years of experience in the field working for several companies and as a independent contractor.
    Mattel - Bratt maker music/movie industry - innovators and users or the case i talk about here .... they are not different than what most of Mike's site is about.

    You can have the best, most innovative, well executed product out there but you will go nowhere unless you have money and connections to compete in the courtroom and political back offices.

    How can a "normal" citizen without massive resources (both financial and political) innovate nowadays?

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