Dec 5, 2008

Business - Mattel wins permanent injunction vs MGA in Bratz case

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A federal judge in California on Wednesday ordered MGA Entertainment Inc to stop selling its popular Bratz dolls and banned it from using the Bratz name, finding that "hundreds" of Bratz products infringe on copyrights owned by rival toymaker Mattel Inc (MAT.N).

U.S. District Judge Stephen Larson also ordered MGA to recall all Bratz dolls from retailers and to destroy "specialized plates, molds and matrices" used to make the dolls, according to a permanent injunction issued late on Wednesday, but stayed until at least early next year.

The ruling appears to allow MGA and retailers to sell the Bratz dolls through the Christmas holiday season.

Larson rejected the idea of allowing MGA to continue to make the pouty lipped, urban chic dolls that made its name and fortunes while paying Mattel a royalty. Larson set a February 11 hearing on post-trial motions.

"Mattel has established its exclusive rights to the Bratz drawings and the court has found that hundreds of the MGA parties' products -- including all the currently available core female fashion dolls Mattel was able to locate in the marketplace -- infringe those rights," Larson wrote in the ruling.

Mattel won the rights to the $1 billion-plus Bratz franchise earlier this year in a lawsuit against MGA and former Mattel Barbie designer Carter Bryant, who invented the Bratz concept while under contract to Mattel.

A jury later ruled Bryant had secretly sold the concept to MGA.

In a statement, Mattel said it was pleased with the court's ruling.

"Today's ruling underscores what Mattel has said all along - that MGA should not be allowed to profit from its wrongdoing," the statement said.

A jury awarded Mattel the rights to concept drawings and models created by Bryant but gave the toy giant only a fraction of the $2 billion in damages it had asked for at trial, leaving questions about the extent to which the dolls infringed on those drawings.

In his ruling, Larson said his own side-by-side review of the drawings and dolls left him with no doubts that MGA was infringing on Mattel's copyright.

MGA attorney Thomas Nolan said the company plans to appeal the injunction along with other issues from the trial.

"We will ask the court to continue to the stay until we take the appeal to the 9th Circuit (Court of Appeals)," Nolan said.

The family-owned toy maker has expanded the line since its 2001 debut to include Baby Bratz, Bratz Kidz, and Lil' Bratz, as well as films and TV shows based on the line.

It is not clear whether those products also were found to infringe on Mattel's copyright for the female fashion dolls that compete with its Barbie doll.

(Reporting by Gina Keating; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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