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Appellate Court Requires Mattel to Pay 137 Million Dollars in Attorneys Fees to MGA in Bratz Doll Litigation

 

It’s amazing how one person’s idea can turn into a patent war between two major companies. In the case of Carter Bryant, an idea for dolls which began with some sketches in 1998 while he was living with his parents in Missouri, later turned into a major battle. Bryant went to work for Mattel Inc., based in El Segundo, California, which claims they began work on designing the dolls with Bryant while he was working for them.

In 2000, MGA Entertainment, based in Van Nuys, California, made a deal with Bryant and, in 2001, the Bratz dolls were released. They were an immediate hit among “tweens” and threatened to de-throne the long-ruling queen of dolls, Mattel’s infamous Barbie. In 2004, Mattel sued Bryant for allegedly working with a competitor while also working with Mattel, and Mattel also sued MGA for alleged copyright infringement. The case against Bryant settled rather quickly but the battle with MGA rages on.

The case went back and forth in the courts. Initially, a jury agreed that Bryant had developed the concept while working with Mattel and thereby awarded the company $100 million.

The decision was overruled on appeal however when the 9th Circuit court overturned that decision and ordered a new trial.

MGA counter-sued, alleging Mattel had engaged in corporate espionage when some of their employees gained access to some of MGA’s designs at a toy fair. Mattel then allegedly used the information gained to try to keep Bratz dolls off the shelves and thereby participated in some illegal practices of their own.

In April 2011, a jury sided with MGA, awarding the entertainment company $3.4 for each of 26 instances they found of Mattel using misappropriated trade secrets, a total of $88.4 million. With fees and damages together, Mattel was ordered to pay $172 million in punitive damages in addition to the judge’s order of $137 million in legal fees and costs to defend against Mattel. This brought the entire award to over $309 million.

According to the U.S. District judge, the copyright case that Mattel was alleging was “stunning in scope and unreasonable in relief it requested.” He also said that the claims endangered free expression and competition.

A federal appeals court however has overturned the $172 million punitive damages ruling. The court decided that, as it is considering Mattel’s copyright infringement lawsuit against MGA, Mattel’s trade-secret thefts are irrelevant to the case. However, the court allowed the award of $137 million to cover legal fees and costs to remain. The case will now return to the courts.

MGA has said that it intends to file a new lawsuit to pursue their trade-theft claims against Mattel.


Super Lawyers named Chicago and Oak Brook business trial attorneys Peter Lubin and Vincent DiTommaso Super Lawyers in the Categories of Class Action, Business Litigation and Consumer Rights Litigation. DiTommaso-Lubin’s Oak Brook and Chicago business trial lawyers have over a quarter of century of experience in litigating complex class action, consumer rights and business and commercial litigation disputes. We handle emergency business law suits involving injunctions, and TROS, covenant not to compete, franchise, distributor and dealer wrongful termination and trade secret lawsuits and many different kinds of business disputes involving shareholders, partnerships, closely held businesses and employee breaches of fiduciary duty. We also assist businesses and business owners who are victims of fraud.

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DiTommaso-Lubin’s Wheaton, Naperville, and Aurora litigation attorneys have more than two and half decades of experience helping business clients unravel the complexities of Illinois and out-of-state business laws. Our Chicago business, commercial, class-action and consumer litigation lawyers represent individuals, family businesses and enterprises of all sizes in a variety of legal disputes, including disputes among partners and shareholders as well as lawsuits between businesses and and consumer rights, auto fraud, and wage claim individual and class action cases. In every case, our goal is to resolve disputes as quickly and sucessfully as possible, helping business clients protect their investements and get back to business as usual. From offices in Oak Brook, near Aurora and Elgin, we serve clients throughout Illinois and the Midwest.

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