Ninth Circuit reverses court order granting toymaker Mattel ownership of Bratz doll brand
By Abby Lauer – Edited by Janet Freilich
MGA Entertainment, Inc. v. Mattel, Inc., No. 09-55673 (9th Cir. July 22, 2010)
In a decision making headlines across the nation, the Ninth Circuit reversed the Central District of California, which had given Mattel ownership rights to the Bratz doll brand after a jury found that the designer who created the dolls was working for Mattel when he conceived the idea. Along with ownership of the Bratz brand, the district court also ordered Bratz manufacturer MGA to pay Mattel $10 million in damages.
The Ninth Circuit held that MGA had significantly improved the value of the Bratz brand as a result of its investment in the product, development efforts, and marketing since the dolls were first sold in 2001. Writing for a unanimous three-judge panel, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski maintained that it would not be equitable to completely revoke MGA’s ownership of the billion-dollar Bratz line, even if development of the brand may have started with a misappropriated idea. In so holding, Judge Kozinski stated that a significant portion – if not all – of the jury’s verdict and damages award should be vacated, and that the entire case will probably have to be retried.
Bloomberg provides an overview of the case. The Wall Street Journal offers additional commentary about the prolonged legal battle between Mattel and MGA to determine the rightful owner of the Bratz brand. (more…)