National Briefing

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

LEGAL

Mattel Wins $100 Million Award

A federal jury awarded Mattel Inc. $100 million in damages in a copyright lawsuit that pitted the house of Barbie against MGA Entertainment, the maker of the popular Bratz dolls.

MGA and its chief executive, Isaac Larian, were told to pay a total of $90 million in three claims related to Mattel's employment contract with designer Carter Bryant, who developed the Bratz concept. The jury also ordered MGA, Larian and subsidiary MGA Hong Kong to pay a total of $10 million for copyright infringement.

The amount fell far short of the $1.8 billion that Mattel attorneys had demanded in their closing arguments. In a victory for MGA, the jury did not award any punitive damages and found that neither Larian nor MGA acted willfully when they employed Bryant, a finding that could have dramatically increased the damages.

U.S. District Judge Stephen G. Larson will now consider the awards and make a final decision on how much MGA owes Mattel. MGA said it plans to argue that some of the awards are duplicative, and Larian said he would appeal.

LABOR

ArcelorMittal Faces Possible Strike

The United Steelworkers union has asked more than 14,000 of its members at facilities run by ArcelorMittal, the world's largest steelmaker, to allow it to call a strike if ongoing contract negotiations fail.

The Pittsburgh-based labor union said in a notice distributed at 14 plants nationwide that a "lack of progress" in the talks, which began four months ago, prompted the strike authorization vote scheduled for today.

The union has been negotiating with Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal on behalf of the workers and tens of thousands of retirees. The current contract is set to expire Sept. 1.

Boeing Revises Offer to Union

Boeing, in the last week of talks before the contract with its largest labor union runs out, proposed lifting machinists' compensation by $28,000 over three years, a 17 percent jump from its prior offer.

Boeing dropped its effort to switch new hires into a 401(k)-style savings program instead of the current defined-benefit pension plan, removing what the union had termed a "strike issue" from the table. Workers would get raises of 9 percent spread out over the contract, according to a memo from lead Boeing negotiator Doug Kight.

"It's an outstanding offer and we think employees will appreciate that," Boeing spokesman Tim Healy said. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers said the revised proposal "is still far below the expectations of our members."

MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS

HP Closes $13.9 Billion EDS Deal

Hewlett-Packard said that it finished its $13.9 billion acquisition of technology services company Electronic Data Systems. The deal, which was announced in May, was approved by the European Commission and by EDS shareholders in July. The acquisition also passed the regulatory waiting period in the United States without a request for more information by the Justice Department or Federal Trade Commission.

AIRLINES

Southwest to Cut 200 Flights

Southwest Airlines, which had resisted the kinds of capacity cuts being made by other carriers, will eliminate nearly 200 flights early next year as it, too, struggles with high fuel costs and a weakening economy. The move raised doubts about the company's publicly stated goal of growing modestly in 2009 despite the airline industry's troubles. Southwest said it will cut 196 flights while adding only six in its schedule that takes effect Jan. 11.

Southwest spokesman Chris Mainz said that some of the eliminated flights could be restored later in 2009.

Separately, Southwest said that it will not pay a record $10.2 million fine by Friday, the deadline set by the Federal Aviation Administration.

EARNINGS

Borders Group said its second-quarter loss narrowed to $9.2 million from $25.1 million in the comparable period last year after it paid off debt and cut jobs to reduce costs. Revenue fell 6.6 percent to $758.5 million as sales at North American superstores open at least a year declined 8.9 percent. The bookstore chain put itself up for sale in March after losing market share to Wal-Mart and Amazon.com.

Compiled from reports by Washington Post staff writers, the Associated Press and Bloomberg News.

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company