Bratz beats Barbie in America's $310m legal battle of the dolls


The latest round in the knockdown, drag-out fight between the makers of the iconic teenage fashion doll Barbie and of her upstart catwalk competitors the Bratz has been resolved by a judge in California – and it's the former who has her tights in a twist and her hair in a tangle.

A federal judge ordered Mattel, the world's biggest toy maker, to pay MGA Entertainment, which introduced the Bratz line of pouty, multi-ethnic dolls a decade ago, more than $309m in damages, fees and other costs arising from a legal wrestling match quite unbecoming of the plastic ladies they make.

It began in 2004 when Mattel alleged that one of its former employees, Carter Bryant, had come up with the Bratz line of sassy dolls while he was working at the company, and that his decision to leave and take the idea to the much smaller MGA amounted to theft.

It was contention that at first found favour in the courts. In 2008, a jury agreed that Mr Bryant had violated the terms of his "inventions agreement" with Mattel by developing the Bratz brand at the rival company. That ruling was overturned on appeal and a new trial was ordered. In April this year, a new jury said Mattel had not demonstrated copyright infringement. Instead, it said Mattel had been stealing ideas from MGA.

The award announced by Judge David Carter late on Thursday confirmed that finding and was welcomed by the MGA chief executive, Isaac Larian, as the fruit of his company's years of efforts to stand up to its much larger accuser. "I feel vindicated and I'm very excited," he told the Los Angeles Times "I'm happy for MGA, MGA employees and all the people who believed in us and did not abandon us for all these years."

For its part, Mattel indicated that it still wasn't ready for a friendly reconciliation between Barbie and the Bratz. "Mattel strongly believes that the outcome at the trial level is not supported by the evidence or the law," the company said. "We remain committed to finding a reasonable resolution to the litigation."

The original case centred on Mattel's contention that Mr Bryant dreamed up the hip-hop Bratz dolls in 1999 when he was a full-time employee at the company. He has insisted on the stand however that first glimmerings of the Bratz line actually came to him one year earlier when he was on a break from Mattel.

The Bratz camp is not satisfied yet, however, and says it will seek further compensation for what it claims has been the "criminal" assaults against it by Mattel. "We will now pursue our anti-trust case against Mattel and its CEO Bob Eckert in order to get fully compensated for the damages Mattel has caused MGA," Mr Larian added.

Until the Bratz girls emerged in 2001, the empire of Barbie had remained largely unchallenged. The interloper proved to be an early success racking up some $1bn in annual sales and cutting into the Barbie market share.

The appeals court judge last year made no bones about his view that Mattel was out of order in trying to chase Bratz off the shelves. "Mattel can't claim a monopoly over fashion dolls with a bratty look or attitude, or dolls sporting trendy clothing – these are all unprotectable ideas," Chief Judge Alex Kozinski said.


Born: 2001

Parent Company: MGA Entertainment

Price: From £9.97 in Tesco

Sales: More than 125 million Bratz dolls were sold in the first five years after they were launched

Profits: Worldwide sales of Bratz dolls and accessories reportedly broke the $1bn mark at the height of their popularity in 2005 Global reach Bratz dolls are sold in nearly 70 countries worldwide.

...vs Barbie

Born: 1959

Parent Company: Mattel

Price: From £9.97 in Tesco

Sales: More than one billion Barbie dolls had been sold by 2009, and an estimated 90 per cent of American girls aged between three and 10 own at least one Barbie, according to Mattel.

Profits: In 2005, sales of Barbie products remained higher than Bratz at $3bn, but these figures had fallen by around 13 per cent compared with 2004 Global reach Barbie dolls have been sold in more than 150 countries, including in the Middle East, where an alternative version called Fulla is sold

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner

£15000 - £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you've got first class custo...

Recruitment Genius: Mobile Applications Developer / Architect - iOS and Android

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a medium s...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Account Executive - £40K OTE

£11830 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working in a friendly, sales ta...

Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

£15000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life