Finally Over: 8 Years Of Mattel vs. Bratz And No One’s Getting Paid But The Lawyers
One of the more epic IP battles has come to an end. Barbie) and MGA Entertainment (Bratz), have spent most of a decade in various courtrooms hashing out the ultra-serious question about which of these companies is entitled to the Bratz millions.
Long story short, a former Mattel employee left the company and crafted one of the first serious threats to Barbie’s dominance, the Bratz dolls. Mattel, of course, was none too happy because the designer was still employed by Mattel when he came up with the idea. M felt it owned the idea and sued the designer in an effort to make that a reality. From that point on it went from bad to worse to farcical. At one point, the court ordered MGA to turn over all future plans for the Bratz line… which was then reversed… which was reversed by a lower court… which was re-reversed by the original court. This led to counterclaims flying from both directions and the last we had heard, Mattel, which had originally filed the suit, was being hit with a judgment for $309 million in damages, including MGA’s court fees. Adding that together with Mattel’s legal expenses, and this fight over dolls put Mattel on the hook for nearly $700 million.
Now, it appears the fight is finally over. And, like many long legal battles, the lawyers are the only ones coming out ahead.
The long-running IP war between Mattel Inc. and MGA Entertainment Inc. over the Bratz line of dolls has ended — for now — with zero damages.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Thursday laid waste to Bratz maker MGA’s $170 million trade secret award — an award procured on retrial after the appeals court wiped out Barbie maker Mattel’s $100 million copyright verdict and constructive trust.
But MGA gets the last laugh. The Ninth Circuit left untouched $137 million in attorney fees and costs awarded to MGA for defending against Mattel’s copyright claims.
Yes, the old truism (that I made up right now) “The only true winner in our legal system is MGA’s lawyers” is proven once again in this case specifically. MGA won’t be collecting any damages but at least its legal team lives on to fight another day — possibly tomorrow, from the sound of its sore winner statement:
CEO Isaac Larian promised to retry the company’s trade secret claims to a new jury. “We are confident that when the second jury hears about Mattel’s sneaking into our showrooms and egregious theft of scores of our secrets over the years, they will be even more appalled than the first jury and award MGA even greater damages,” he said in the statement.
M has fired back with about the only silver lining retort available after spending nearly 8 years in court: the statute of limitations. The court basically agrees with Mattel’s half-defiant, half-white flag statement, ruling that MGA’s counterclaim (the one that had originally awarded it $170 million in damages) was time-barred and by no means “compulsory.”
This hasn’t stopped MGA from proudly declaring this “windfall” (which will all be going right back in its lawyers’ pockets) to be the “largest fee and cost award in a copyright infringement case in US history.” True, it’s better than coming out of the battle stuck with the legal bill, but this misplaced joie de vivre makes it seem as though MGA will be presenting the award to Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in the form of an oversized novelty check in front of gathered members of the sympathetic press and assorted minor local politicians.