Doll on Doll Action: Barbie Beats Bratz Girls

RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- Barbie beat Bratz, but Bratz wants a rematch.

The founder of Van Nuys-based MGA Entertainment Inc., which makes Bratz, lost a copyright infringement lawsuit to Mattel, which makes Barbie dolls, but vowed Thursday to appeal a federal judge's sweeping order to stop distributing most Bratz products.

"We believe the jury verdict was clear in denying 99 percent of Mattel's copyright infringement claim and that ... such a broad (court-ordered) injunction is inconsistent with the limited jury verdict and the law," said MGA founder and CEO Isaac Larian in a statement.

During a four-month federal copyright infringement trial over the summer, Mattel alleged MGA had no right to the original Bratz designs because they had been created by doll designer Carter Bryant while he was still employed by Mattel.

A nine-person jury agreed, awarding Mattel more than $99 million in damages -- about 5 percent of what the toy giant sought.

However, in a sweeping order issued late Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Stephen G. Larson of Riverside ruled that Larian and MGA were "permanently enjoined" from reproducing, manufacturing, marketing, licensing or exporting nearly all Bratz figures, with few exceptions.

Larson said Mattel should be entitled to the benefits of most Bratz trademarks, service marks and domain names, and that these should be held in trust -- not by MGA.

"Mattel has established its exclusive rights to the Bratz drawings, and the court has found that hundreds of the MGA parties' products -- including all the currently available core female fashion dolls Mattel was able to locate in the marketplace -- infringe those rights," Larson wrote.

"The MGA parties have evinced an intention to continue marketing those dolls," he continued. "This represents a wholesale inability on the part of Mattel to enforce its exclusive rights under the Copyright Act, amounting to irreparable harm."

He said the injunction against further production, marketing and distribution of Bratz products will not apply to a few dolls, identified as "Cloe's younger sister," "the younger version of Yasmin" and "the younger version of Alicia." However, before being sold, those figures would have to be packaged separately from any "doll incorporating the core Bratz fashion doll."

The injunction is not scheduled to take effect until after the judge rules on post-trial motions heard in November. Larson is expected to rule on those motions Feb. 11.

Larian also plans to appeal the verdict to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

"We will seek to stay enforcement of this order until our appeal is resolved so we can maintain the over 1,500 people that MGA employs, and continue to give our consumers a product they desire," Larian said.

On Wednesday, Mattel chairman and CEO Robert Eckert released a statement saying the company was "extremely pleased that the court granted Mattel's motion for an injunction and ordered MGA to stop selling Bratz products that infringe on Mattel's rights."

"Mattel is also pleased that the court ordered MGA to stop using the Bratz trademark since it belongs to Mattel," he said. "(The) ruling underscores what Mattel has said all along -- that MGA should not be allowed to profit from its wrongdoing."  

MGA, a family-owned company that employs around 1,500 people, has sold more than $3 billion of the doe-eyed, tween-favored dolls that sport rock-star fashions and names like "Jade," "Yasmin" and "Sasha."

Mattel's more refined Barbie dolls have declined in sales since the funky Bratz dolls caught on more than six years ago, according to Wall Street analysts.

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