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.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    wulfman (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 12:31am

    typo

    Don't you proof read your stories?
    "the maker of Babie"
    Don't you mean "the maker of Barbie"?

     

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  2.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 1:20am

    Re: typo

    Don't you proof read your stories?

    Yes. But sometimes mistakes happen. No one's perfect.

    Thanks for pointing out the typo. It's now been fixed.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Sheinen, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 2:32am

    @ Wulfman

    Dont you proof read your name? Wolf is spelt with an 'o'

     

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  4.  
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    wulfman (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 3:01am

    uhhh

    It is a surname

     

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  5.  
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    WammerJammer (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 4:28am

    Anything goes!

    Let's see.
    Microsoft stole from Apple
    Apple stole from Kodak.
    Cisco stole from Stanford.
    Any questions?

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    one sided contract, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 4:58am

    "ecause its contract with the designer included all rights to things he worked on while under their employ."

    that contract sounds like it is unconscionable.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 5:06am

    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.

     

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  8.  
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    Richard (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 5:56am

    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 ....

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 5:57am

    Re: uhhh

    Isn't that a sirname good knight.

     

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  10.  
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    Mr RC (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 5:59am

    Hmmm...

    When did he come up with the idea? during 'work time' or after hours... at home?

    If it was at Mattel, while at work.. then fair enough..

    If it was at home.. during his personal time, off the clock.. then no.. bugger that.. they shouldn't get a penny..

     

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  11.  
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    jramboz, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 6:50am

    To paraphrase one T. Edison...

    ... if we accept that invention is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration, then maybe MGA (who did all the hard work) should get 90% of the profits and Mattel the other 10% for the initial idea.

    (Now removing tongue from cheek.)

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 7:08am

    Re: To paraphrase one T. Edison...

    Don't you mean 50% legal and 50% theft, Megaglomerates are brutal for this sort of thing, they won't pay R&D dollars for good ideas, but they have no problem stealing already baked good ideas from employees whenever convenient..

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Joe, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 7:23am

    Re:

    This is a pretty standard clause in the software industry, just for this reason. It generally doesn't matter if you're at home, sitting in the toilet when you get the idea. The courts generally agree with the employer in these cases, but this does seem to go a bit too far.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    The Judge, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 8:56am

    To Richard

    By that incredible rationale of yours Richard, 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!!!

    Very bright indeed. Makes total sense.

     

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  15.  
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    Derek Bredensteiner (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 11:18am

    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?

     

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  16.  
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    Almost Anonymous (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 11:37am

    Re: Re:

    Yeah, and quite often you have to sign a non-compete agreement for some stretch of time during and after your employment with the company.

     

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  17.  
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    Derek Bredensteiner (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 11:45am

    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.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    stan, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 3:15pm

    MGA

    Doesn't really matter what the court decides at this point as the retailers don't want anything to do with the brand anymore and have already pulled the inventory off the shelves...

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    stan, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 3:17pm

    MGA

    Doesn't really matter what the court decides at this point as the retailers don't want anything to do with the brand anymore and have already pulled the inventory off the shelves...

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    anonymousnessossity, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 4:08pm

    Re: Hmmm...

    When you get Salary- there is no 'off the clock' when it comes do designing a toy and you work for a toy company.

    designers get salaries.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 6:41pm

    Re: To Richard

    Epic analogy fail.

    If I steal your hubcaps, that does not mean you have the rights to my BMW.

    If I steal your idea, you do not get the rights to my business, production line, the physical goods, the market share...

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    The Judge, Dec 16th, 2009 @ 10:15am

    Re: Re: 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.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    bratz dress up games, Jan 6th, 2010 @ 5:04am

    Hope Bratz will survive

    I certainly hope that the bratz brand will survive, atleast on the internet with games and such.

    Does Mattel plan to continue and sell Bratz or just shut it down?

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    lilred7107, Feb 28th, 2010 @ 7:34am

    wulfman

    Dude u don't have to be soooo rude. Can't stand jerks like you

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    I ain't got no name, Mar 30th, 2010 @ 7:03am

    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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  26.  
    identicon
    jai, Apr 25th, 2010 @ 12:00pm

    fAIR

    U R SO RIGHT MATTEL DEAD DIRTY 4 DOIN DAT

     

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


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