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My Little Pony, not Yours, Doll Designer Says

S ANGELES (CN) — A seasoned doll creator about to start trial against Hasbro for allegedly stealing her ideas for new versions of My Little Pony and other toys filed an additional lawsuit against the company Tuesday, repeating and expanding her claims.

Elinor Shapiro, "a world-famous doll inventor" who has worked on Barbie and Disney Princess dolls, came up with the idea of melding My Little Pony dolls and other toys with "the magical play of a snow globe," according to her two federal lawsuits. But she says Hasbro brought out its own versions of the dolls soon after she gave the company a detailed presentation, prototypes and marketing plans.

"About 17 months after first seeing [her submission] Wishables, Hasbro commercially released a new segment in its My Little Pony brand of totally clear, animal-shaped dolls, filled with liquid and glitter shaped to match each character, at the $5.99-$7.99 opening price point, called Rainbow Shimmer in Fall 2014, just as recommended in the Wishables marketing roadmap," her new federal lawsuit claims.

"No doll line at that price slot had ever been based around those elements, prior to Shapiro's development of the information and strategy in the total Wishables submission," Shapiro says in the Aug. 2 complaint.

Her first lawsuit, filed in April 2015, accuses the Rhode Island-based toy giant of breach of contract, copyright infringement and violations of California's trade secrets laws, involving Rainbow Shimmer ponies and other dolls released in 2014.

A jury trial in that case is set for Sept. 27, according to Shapiro's lead attorney, Lisa Borodkin of Redondo Beach. Also part of the plaintiff's team is Howard King of King, Holmes, Paterno & Soriano in Los Angeles and newly added Christina Gagnier of Gagnier Margossian in Chino.

Shapiro's new lawsuit drops the copyright claim but adds a violation of the new federal Defend Trade Secrets Act, which took effect May 11. It also charges Hasbro with planning to bring out an upgraded, light-up version of the Rainbow Shimmer My Little Pony line called Sparkle Bright at $9.99 — just as Shapiro had called for in her presentation.

"Shapiro owned a trade secret in a marketing opportunity, namely that a totally clear, animal-shaped doll line with a light-up feature had never been done in the $9.99-$10.99 price slot for girls," her lawsuit claims.

Yet Hasbro "took design, invention, marketing, sales, focus group and trend research information from the Wishables submission that had independent value from not being generally known, and used it to release, improve or develop the Rainbow Shimmer, Water Cuties, and Sparkle Bright lines," her new complaint states.

Hasbro's lead attorney, Joshua Krumholtz from Holland & Knight's Boston office, did not return a call about the case late Wednesday. In earlier hearings before U.S. District Judge Beverly Reid O'Connell, Krumholtz has argued that Shapiro's ideas and models didn't amount to protectable trade secrets and that the company developed its snow globe toys independently, according to news reports.

The Ninth Circuit issued a short, unpublished opinion affirming O'Connell's refusal to grant a preliminary injunction against Hasbro's dolls. The Ninth Circuit said Shapiro's snow globe ideas didn't qualify as trade secrets under California's law.

Borodkin said Wednesday that she has asked the Ninth Circuit to reconsider its ruling.

The new lawsuit seeks an injunction blocking sales of the toys, disgorgement of profits, a minimum of $75,000 in damages, double damages under California's statute and punitive damages.

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