"It's my doll!" "No, it's my doll!" That is what this lawsuit would sound like if the opposing parties were, say, six. However, in this case the parties include a giant toy corporation and the "it's my doll" argument takes on bit bigger ramifications. A 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judge has just taken Mattel's rights to the Bratz line of dolls away and given them back to the original owner, MGA Entertainment, Inc. At least for now.
In their decision on July 22, the 9th Circuit found that the lower court had erred in forcing MGA to give over the bratty dolls to Barbie-maker, Mattel, Inc. According to Reuters, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski rescinded the injunction prohibiting MGA from selling the dolls. The case began back in 2008, when the verdict from a federal jury in Riverside, California ordered MGA and its Chief Executive Isaac Larian to pay Mattel $100 million in damages. The jury found that Barbie designer, Carter Bryant, was under contract to Mattel when he sold MGA some drawings upon which the Bratz dolls were based.
Based on the jury's decision, federal district court Judge Stephen Larsen then ordered MGA to stop selling the dolls by the end of 2009 and transfer ownership over to Mattel. This week's decision by Judge Kozinski suspends that prohibition against the sale of the "pouty lipped" multi-ethnic dollies by MGA. The judge said the court had made mistakes in its analysis concerning whether or not Mattel actually owned Carter Bryant's ideas at the time they were sold to MGA, so it can not yet say whether MGA's use of them was wrongful or not.
The court noted that the Bratz empire is a very valuable asset thanks to the "sweat equity" of MGA. "It is not equitable to transfer this billion dollar brand -- the value of which is overwhelmingly the result of MGA's legitimate efforts -- because it may have started with two misappropriated names," Judge Kozinski wrote.
There is nothing like hearing a federal judge opine on the nature of America's favorite dollies. "Unlike the relatively demure Barbie, the urban, multi-ethnic and trendy Bratz dolls have attitude," Kozinski wrote. "America thrives on competition; Barbie, the all-American girl, will too."
The next tea party will likely include a new trial for the dolls and their squabbling owners.