A U.S. District Court jury, after a three month long trial, has awarded Mattel a combined verdict of $100 million against MGA. Mattel makes the Barbie doll, while MGA makes the “saucier” Bratz dolls. Since the Bratz dolls entered the club, Barbie declining sales have started to make her look like a wall flower.
As the first round of this battle nears completion, the size of the verdict may look to the uninitiated as if Barbie has smacked the smile off the pouty lips of rival Bratz. Mattel, however, had asked for $1.8 billion and the war is likely to continue for some time.
Both sides in the copyright litigation claimed some measure of victory. Although large by most standards, the award was relatively small under the circumstances, and the defendants have already said they would appeal. The verdict did not include punitive damages.
The core issue relates to Mattel’s employment exclusivity contract with designer Carter Bryant, who allegedly developed the Bratz concept while still working for Mattel. MGA made nearly $779 million on the Bratz line since it was introduced in 2001, according to arguments made by Mattel during the trial.
The jury verdict dealt with three separate causes of action – intentional interference with contractual relations, aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty, and aiding and abetting breach of the duty of loyalty damages. Still to be decided are issues such as:
- whether some of the various individual awards, which are aggregated in the $100 million figure, are duplicative;
- will the court enjoin MGA from making more of the Bratz dolls, or perhaps just the early ones more clearly tied to work done while Bryant worked for Mattel;
- whether the court might allow MGA to keep manufacturing, but pay Mattel royalties for what they make;
- how Mattel’s separate trade secret litigation against MGA will conclude; and
- how MGA’s unfair competition litigation against Mattel will conclude, which deals with Mattel’s My Scene dolls.