BRATZ/BARBIE: Jury still out

The jury has now retired in the Mattel/MGA trial.
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Mattel and MGA Entertainment brought to a close a nearly seven-week federal trial over which owns the $1 billion-plus Bratz doll franchise, handing the case over to a California jury.

The central question before the nine-member jury is whether the creator of Bratz dolls, Carter Bryant, made his original drawings while he was working as a Barbie designer at Mattel, or during an eight-month hiatus from the toy giant in 1998.

In closing arguments, Mattel attorneys said the evidence showed MGA executives bought Bryant's designs to bolster its weak toy offerings and then helped him hide the fact that he designed the Bratz dolls while he was under contract to Mattel in 1999.

"This was a perfect marriage of an individual willing to betray his employer and a company needing him to do exactly that," Mattel attorney John Quinn said, adding that the evidence showed Bryant had added 1998 dates to drawings long after the fact and had torn out drawings from a notebook that contained dated drawings from 1999.

Mattel argued in court that MGA Chief Executive Isaac Larian told conflicting stories to the news media about the origin of Bratz to try to conceal Bryant's involvement.

"Mr. Larian did not care when these designs were made," Quinn told the jury on Thursday. "Whether Carter Bryant was a Mattel employee or not did not matter to him."

Later, MGA attorney Thomas Nolan attacked Mattel's argument, saying it failed to prove MGA and Bryant conspired to lie about when the original Bratz drawings were made.

"They had the burden of proof, and they cannot satisfy that by yelling 'He is lying' or 'She is lying."' Nolan said, adding that MGA executives had had no reason to disbelieve Bryant when he told them the drawings were made in 1998 while he was taking a break from Mattel.

Nolan also argued that Mattel had failed to prove the drawings ripped out of the notebook were done in 1999.

"The evidence is clear that Mattel wants Bratz. If the drawings were done in 1998, Mattel does not own them," Nolan said.

In Mattel's rebuttal, attorney William Price argued that Nolan, in his closing argument, had not disputed Mattel's claim that MGA executives and Bryant had lied and covered up key facts about the creation of the Bratz dolls.

"It's unfair if a company competes with you by stealing from you, so this is not legitimate competition," Price said. "There is a right way and a wrong way to compete."

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