December 4, 2008

It's Hard Out There For A Bratz

bratz_reuters_dreamtoys.jpgYou know, people bitch and moan about the out-of-control litigiousness of the American corporate landscape, and particularly intellectual property laws and the stranglehold rabid trial lawyers pursuing frivolous copyright infringement cases have on good old-fashioned creativity.

But then you read something that makes it all worthwhile. A California judge has issued an injunction against MGA, ordering them to halt production and sales of Bratz dolls because, as a jury found this summer, Bratz were conceived by a Barbie designer named Carter Bryant while he worked at Mattel.

And as a result of Bryant's employment contract, almost all the original Bratz intellectual property, including drawings, models, and trademarks, were the property of Mattel. And even further, MGA was found to have stolen Mattel's intellectual property and then attempted to conceal Bryant's involvement with Bratz for several years.

The judge's order won't go into effect until at least February, to give the companies time to appeal or whatever. But between Bratz and the closing of Club Libby Lu, I expect the street corners outside Toys R Us are gonna be prett-y crowded next spring.

Mattel Wins Order Barring Sales of MGA Bratz Dolls [bloomberg.com]
June 2008: Mattel prevails in Bratz copyright case [reuters.com, also img above by Stephen Hird of Bratz kickin' Barbie while she's down]
A great trial preview from May 2008: BARBIE'S REVENGE | Brawl Over Doll Is Heading to Trial [wsj.com

10 Comments

I read this yesterday and it made me happy as well. Until I realized that Mattel is probably going to come out with a new line of "Slutz" or "Ho'z" just in time for Christmas '09

at this rate, they'll be able to call them "Bratz."

I'll be happy to see them go -- in the end they did Mattel a service though; not much outcry over Barbie's unrealistic proportions now that Bratz have done comically exaggerated sexuality thing...

I collect fashion and art dolls, so I've been following this somewhat, and I don't agree. Some of the articles and press releases make it sound as though Mattel were working on the Bratz line and planning to release it to great fanfare, but then it was stolen out from under them by a man twirling a black moustache. Carter Bryant came up with the idea for Bratz and presented it to Mattel. Mattel did not want to produce the line and shot it down. He left the company and pitched his idea to MGM, they expanded on it, and created the Bratz line as it is today. Yes, LEGALLY Mattel has the rights to Bryant's original concept, as he was working for them when he came up with it, but in my opinion (and this is merely that - my opinion), Mattel didn't recognize a profitable concept when they saw it, and now it's sour grapes.

Also, I'm not a fan of Bratz and have never bought one, but I don't see overt sexualization. They have very small chests, no hips, long legs, huge feet, and huge heads. The only thing I see are short shorts and lots of makeup. Is lipliner slutty? *shrug*

You don't agree with what? The clear terms of Bryant's contract that gave Mattel all the IP he created? The facts that Bryant and MGA were deceptive about when Bratz were created, right down to the moment Bryant wiped his harddrive before handing over his computer for forensic testing in the trial? And where the MGA CEO went around telling people his son had invented the dolls?

There's no doubt Mattel was a mess; that's their problem, and Bratz is making a huge dent in Barbie sales? that's their problem, too. But it seems to me--and it's just my opinion, mine and the judge who ordered a halt to all Bratz production--that whatever creative work MGA did on their own was still based on IP that rightfully belonged to Mattel. The fact that Mattel didn't use it is irrelevant.

Well, it's interesting being on this end of your sarcasm, but it still doesn't change the fact that I don't agree with the outcome of this dispute. I think that Mattel should spend more time hiring and keeping talent, coming up with interesting and innovative products, not covering up things like burning Power Wheels batteries and lead paint, and less time trying to sue everyone who threatens Barbie. It's especially ironic coming from a company who stole the entire idea for Barbie from the German Bild Lilli doll, right down to buying and taking the dolls back to Mattel to work from.

I'm not trying to say that Mattel wasn't legally in the right here, or that MGA didn't do anything wrong, because it's obvious that they did. I just hate seeing the big, greedy guys win after spending $30+ million in legal fees and laying off 1,000 people. How many small-time creators do you think Mattel has ripped off over the years and then buried in legal fees and paperwork? For example, they did a whole series of play-line Barbies that were head-to-toe ripoffs of people in the Japanese fashion book "Fruits".

Are those Bratz dolls or the next casting call for "Team America World Police" The dude on the end really looks like Gary.

i don't think we disagree on much at all, really, except on our enjoyment of the Bratz origins getting exposed and the court's finding of outright theft and deception. As you point out, it happens all the time, but it rarely gets laid out in court.

And you're also right that Mattel's tactics are despicable, an uncreative way to run what should be an innovative business. But MCA is not some sweet, innocent guy in a garage; the CEO sounds like a total schnook, if not actual scum, and they knew full well that their multi-billion-dollar business was founded on theft, and they got busted for it.

I'm sure the thrill of all this will be short-lived, though, because Bratz won't actually disappear. Mattel and MCA will either settle, or Mattel will end up with them. Either way, Mattel will get a pile of money for selling skanky products they'd previously rejected--and Bratz will still exist. And that will truly suck.

well, i work for libby lu and i'm just like sooooo mad that you would compare those dolls to what bee-u-t-full work we do! i mean, really!

-wow, just kidding. but wouldn't it be funny if those cheerleaders come to the defense of the whore doll?

Man, it sucks that they are taking the bratz off the shelves! That is my sisters favorite doll! Why couldn't the guys sell the idea to Matell, and he could get his own profit from the best selling idea!

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