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Thursday, May 16, 2024 | Back issues
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Bratz Doll Verdict Fought Again in the 9th Circuit

PASADENA, Calif. (CN) - Mattel urged the 9th Circuit to throw out a $310 million judgment for Bratz doll creator MGA Entertainment in their 8-year-old copyright fight.

The last time these companies went before the federal appeals court, Mattel was trying to protect a jury award that granted it 1 percent of $2.3 billion in copyright damages against MGA.

A jury had found in 2008 that Carter Bryant was still working for Mattel when he showed MGA a concept for a doll: teenagers with distinct large heads, big lips and skinny bodies.

When the 9th Circuit ordered a retrial, a second jury rejected Mattel's bid for ownership of the Bratz brand, and instead sided with MGA on a counterclaim for trade-secret theft.

MGA said that Mattel had sent spies to toy fairs to gather information about MGA's dolls before they hit stores.

The jury awarded MGA $172 million on that claim, and another $137.2 million to cover the cost of fighting Mattel's copyright infringement claims.

In their latest appearance before a packed courtroom of the 9th Circuit Monday, Mattel's attorney Kathleen Sullivan said the second trial "should never have happened."

MGA's trade secret counterclaim should have been dismissed as untimely under California law because MGA knew Mattel had sent spies to the toy fairs some six years before it filed its counterclaim against Mattel, said Sullivan, an attorney with Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan in New York.

There was no evidence connecting MGA's trade secret theft claim to Mattel's defection claims against Bryant, Sullivan argued.

She said the trade secret theft claim was "stale" and "dead in the water," and should never have seen the light of day.

MGA's attorney, Clifford Sloan of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in Washington, asked the court to affirm MGA's trade-secret theft damages.

As the balmy winter air breezed through the open courthouse windows, the three-judge panel pressed for "facts" supporting MGA's case.

Relying on the pleadings, Sloan argued that Mattel had taken trade secrets from MGA and had woven them into documents that Mattel shared with its employees.

During rebuttal, Sullivan said the "whole case goes away once you decide with us on the statute of limitations."

Failing that, she added that the appeals court could "end eight years of litigation" by lowering damages and remanding attorneys' fees.

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski drew laughter from the courtroom by replying, "You could also go outside in the corridor and settle the case."

He heard the case with Judges Stephen Trott and Kim Wardlaw.

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