In Federal Copyright Trial, Mattel Says Rival Stole Bratz Doll Concept
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
RIVERSIDE, Calif., May 27 -- The rights to the popular Bratz doll franchise belong to Mattel, not a rival toymaker that stole the concept that became a global darling among consumers, a lawyer for Mattel said Tuesday.
Attorney John Quinn made the claim during his opening statement in the federal copyright infringement trial pitting Mattel against MGA Entertainment, the maker of the Bratz dolls.
Quinn contended that Mattel, the world's largest toymaker, owned the rights to the fashion dolls because designer Carter Bryant created the concept while employed at Mattel.
"This explains how a small company that never designed a fashion doll . . . was able in a short period of time to come up with a doll that became a global hit," Quinn told jurors.
MGA of Van Nuys, Calif., denied the allegations and countersued, saying that Mattel changed the design of its own "My Scene" dolls to more closely resemble the Bratz line and used its leverage with retailers to stifle competition.
Mattel chief executive Robert A. Eckert and MGA chief executive Isaac Larian were both in the packed courtroom.
Mattel has said Bryant worked for the company from September 1995 to April 1998 then returned in January 1999 and left in October 2000.
Attorney Thomas Nolan, who represents MGA, argued in his opening statement that Bryant came up with the Bratz concept in August 1998 when he visited his family in Missouri and saw magazine ads featuring caricatures resembling what eventually became the Bratz dolls.
"The evidence is going to be -- and you can't shake it -- is that it's 1998 when he does the drawings," Nolan said.
Quinn told jurors that Bryant came up with the idea for Bratz after signing an agreement that gave Mattel the right to anything he designed while employed by the El Segundo, Calif., company.
Instead, Bryant took the proposed dolls to MGA, which produced the line and sold millions around the world, the lawyer said.
"MGA never had the rights to these drawings. They were always Mattel's," Quinn said.