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Rival stole Bratz, Mattel claims

At trial, toymaker says it owns doll concept, not MGA

Mattel promoted My Scene figures, on display here in New York, after losing girls to MGA Entertainment's Bratz franchise. An ex-Mattel designer is credited with inventing the Bratz. Mattel promoted My Scene figures, on display here in New York, after losing girls to MGA Entertainment's Bratz franchise. An ex-Mattel designer is credited with inventing the Bratz. (RICHARD DREW/ASSOCIATED PRESS/FILE 2003)
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Associated Press / May 28, 2008

RIVERSIDE, Calif. - The rights to the popular Bratz doll franchise belong to Mattel Inc., not another toymaker that stole the concept that became a global darling among consumers, a lawyer for Mattel said yesterday.

Lawyer John Quinn made the claim during his opening statement in the federal copyright infringement trial pitting Mattel against MGA Entertainment Inc., the maker of the urban-themed Bratz dolls.

Quinn contended that Mattel, the world's largest toymaker, owns the rights to the fashion dolls because designer Carter Bryant created the line while employed at Mattel.

"This explains how a small company that never designed a fashion doll . . . was able in a short period of time to come up with a doll that became a global hit," Quinn told jurors.

Los Angeles-based MGA has denied the allegations and countersued, saying Mattel changed the design of its own My Scene dolls to more closely resemble the Bratz line and used its leverage with retailers to stifle competition.

Mattel has said Bryant worked for the company between September 1995 and April 1998 then returned in January 1999 and left in October 2000.

Lawyer Thomas Nolan, who represents MGA, argued in his opening statement that Bryant came up with the Bratz concept in August 1998 when he visited his family in Missouri and saw magazine ads featuring caricatures resembling what eventually became the Bratz dolls.

"The evidence is going to be - and you can't shake it - is that it's 1998 when he does the drawings," Nolan said.

Quinn told jurors that Bryant came up with the idea for Bratz after signing an agreement that gave Mattel the right to anything he designed while employed by the El Segundo-based company.

Instead, Bryant took the proposed dolls to MGA, which produced the line and sold millions around the world, the lawyer said.

Mattel reached a confidential settlement with Bryant last week and dropped its lawsuit against him. He is expected to testify at the trial.

If jurors find that Mattel's rights were infringed, the toymaker could collect hundreds of millions of dollars in licensing fees from MGA.

Bryant was identified as the creator of the Bratz line in a 2003 article in The Wall Street Journal.

Bryant has said he was became inspired to create Bratz between two stints at Mattel, and it wasn't anything more than an idea until he left the company.

Mattel filed the original lawsuit four years ago.

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