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.

Bratz...

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

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Graduate C#.NET Developer (TDD, ASP.NET, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Graduate C#.NET Developer (TDD, ASP.NET, SQL) Su...

Junior SQL DBA (SQL Server 2012, T-SQL, SSIS) London - Finance

£30000 - £33000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior SQL DBA...

C# Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, MVC-4, HTML5) London

£35000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Web Develop...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution