The legal dispute between the two world famous doll brands involves designers working for both firms.
Barbie is the name and brand of a famous doll announced by Mattel toy corporation in 1959. After Barbie “dominated” the toy market for 42 years, the Bratz dolls line of entertainment group MGA is born.
First appearing on screen in 2001 with a big head, thin body, thick lips, tight shirt and hippi-style jeans, Bratz dolls blew a breath of fresh air into the market for children’s toys. By 2006, Bratz dolls accounted for 40% of the doll market.
In April 2005, MGA sued Mattel for stealing the “big head, thin body” of Bratz to design a version of My Scene in the Barbie series. Mattel countered by accusing artist Carter Bryant, who designed the dolls for MGA, that he built the idea of a Bratz doll while still working for Mattel. Bryant worked for Mattel in two phases – September 1995 to April 1998 and January 1999 to October 2000. Bryant’s employment contract specifies every Bryant design to be Mattel’s property.
It was not until 2008 that the court heard the case between the two firms. Mattel accused MGA of manipulating Bryant while he was still working for Mattel. MGA’s lawyer said that Bryant created Bratz outside working hours so the labor result belongs to him.
In a July 2008 ruling, the court ordered MGA to pay Mattel $ 100 million because the first generation of Bratz dolls – including four samples of Cloe, Jade, Sasha and Yasmin – were born while Bryant was still working for Mattel. In December 2008, the court forced MGA to stop manufacturing and selling Bratz dolls.
MGA appealed and in the appeal court, one judge concluded that Mattel could only claim ownership of the first four Bratz dolls and the next two models, not the whole sample MGA produced.
However, MGA later sued Mattel for stealing trade secrets related to Bratz dolls. In July 2010, the US District 9 Court of Appeals declared that MGA had the right to sell Bratz. On April 21, 2011, the court declared that Mattel stole 26 trade secrets of MGA, so the company had to pay MGA 3.4 million USD, making Mattel total compensation of 88.5 million USD. In addition, Mattel also had to pay the cost of up to 170 million USD.