Barbie Loses to Bratz on Appeal

“Damn Bratz!” is surely echoing through the hallways of mega toymaker, Mattel, Inc., as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned the Barbie doll maker’s multi-million dollar verdict and injunction against competitor, MGA Entertainment, maker of the Bratz doll line.

Presiding Chief Judge Alex Kozinski stated that not only did former U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Larson err in ordering MGA Entertainment, Inc. to transfer the Bratz IP portfolio to Mattel but, that the ruling was an “abuse of discretion.”

“Unlike the relatively demure Barbie, the urban, multi-ethnic and trendy Bratz dolls have attitude,” Kozinski commented.  “America thrives on competition; Barbie, the all-American girl, will too.”

In August 2008, a federal jury concluded that former Barbie designer, Carter Bryant, was under contract with Mattel when he sold some of his sketches to MGA Entertainment and that those sketches ultimately led to the production of the Bratz doll line.  Consequently, the jury ordered MGA to pay Mattel $10 million in damages (of the nearly $2 billion sought) and further granted it a constructive trust over MGA’s entire Bratz IP portfolio.

“Even assuming that MGA took some ideas wrongfully, it added tremendous value by turning the ideas into products and, eventually, a popular and highly profitable brand”, the three-judge appellate panel said in an opinion (click to view opinion) written by Chief Judge Alex Kozinski. “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.”

It appears that the 9th Circuit Court has reaffirmed the long-standing principle that copyrights cover only the particular expression of an idea, but not the idea itself.

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