BRATZ: Reprieve in Court of Appeals

The Bratz are Back from Toy Death Row

The trial court order of U.S. District Judge Stephen Larson in favor of Barbie maker Mattel, which terminated the sale of Bratz dolls, has been undone by the Federal Appeals Court.

The Bratz are a controversial line of fashion dolls manufactured by MGA Entertainment. Bratz creator, Carter Bryant, had formerly worked for Mattel as a designer.  After several years of declining Barbie sales attributed to competition from Bratz, Mattel sued, asserting ownership of all rights to Bratz based upon a belief that Bryant conceived Bratz while in Mattel’s employ.

On July 17, 2008, a federal jury found that Bryant had created the Bratz while working for Mattel. The jury further found that MGA was liable for conversion of Mattel property and for intentional interference with contract.

On August 26, 2008, the jury awarded damages to Mattel in the amount of $100 million.

On December 3, 2008, Judge Larson issued a permanent injunction against MGA, and mandated that MGA remove all Bratz product from stores, turn over the recalled product to Mattel and destroy all marketing materials and molds used in production of the dolls. MGA appealed.

On December 10, 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit granted MGA a stay of the injunction and halted the recall of Bratz products. Calling Larson’s Order “draconian” the Appeals Court stated that Judge Larson had gone too far in awarding ownership of the entire Bratz franchise to Mattel. The Court further ordered MGA and Mattel to attempt to resolve the matter out of court.

Bryant inadvertently invited a third party to the table when he testified that the inspiration for the Bratz dolls came from Steve Madden shoe adds which featured young women with large heads, oval eyes, small bodies and large feet.  These were created for Steve Madden by artist Bernard “Butch” Belair, who filed suit against Mattel and MGA on October 20, 2009.

MGA plans to release its new line of Bratz in August 2010.