Opening shots fired in latest Bratz case

Katie Roberts

By Katie Roberts

January 19th 2011 at 11:00AM
Opening shots fired in latest Bratz case

Retrial begins between Mattel and MGA in ongoing case over who owns the Bratz brand.

A ruling by a federal appeals court last July overturned the ruling that the Bratz dolls should shift ownership to Mattel, and ordered a retrial, which began yesterday.

In their opening statements, lawyers presented their case to a courtroom that included Mattel chief executive Bob Eckert, MGA CEO Isaac Larian, reporters, company employees and teams of publicists.

During this trial, jurors will hear not only the copyright claims, but also the many accusations which have been made by both companies that the other side stole trade secrets.

In his opening statement, Mattel lawyer John Quinn stated that he would be able to disprove MGA's argument that Bryant was on a hiatus from Mattel when he came up with the idea for the dolls.

Quinn also said he would show that the designer had worked on the dolls when he was under contract with Mattel and then took the idea to rival MGA.

Quinn claimed that MGA, under Larian's instructions, staged an elaborate cover-up that included initially saying the dolls were Larian's idea and later fabricating a "creation story" that Bryant was inspired to create the multiethnic dolls after driving past a high school in Missouri.

"MGA made Carter Bryant a double agent of the highest order," Quinn said. "Or should I say, the lowest."

MGA lawyer Jennifer Keller, on the other hand, said Bryant came up with the idea for the dolls while on an eight-month hiatus from his role at Mattel. She said MGA boss, Larian had been looking for a new type of doll that reflected today's worldly, diverse kids and found it in Bryant's sketches.

When Bratz sales took off and Mattel couldn't compete, she said, the toy giant vowed to crush its smaller competitor.

Keller said: "There are really two sides to every story. After the Bratz dolls became an international hit, and after Mattel's attempts to imitate them with its massive creative genius flopped, Mattel ruthlessly used its power to keep retailers from carrying Bratz."