JEREMY HOBSON: Mattel — the company that makes Barbie dolls, has lost a major court case. Mattel will have to pay $88 million to a company called MGA Entertainment which makes one of Barbie’s biggest rivals.
Marketplace’s Janet Babin is here to explain. Good morning, Janet.
JANET BABIN: Hey Jeremy.
HOBSON: First of all, tell us what this case was all about.
BABIN: This case was really about who owns the idea that became the popular Bratz doll designs. And if you don’t know, Bratz are those hip cheeky dolls with the big heads and the pouty lips. And at the height of their popularity, about five or six years ago, these dolls were huge. I mean they made $1 billion in revenue for their owner, toy company MGA Entertainment. And for a while there, they almost made Barbie irrelevant.
The Bratz dolls were designed by a former Mattel employee while he was still working on Barbie dolls for Mattel. So Mattel had claimed that it owned what this employee drew up. But the employee insisted he was drawing the Bratz dolls on nights and weekends so Mattel didn’t own them. The jury here agreed with the designer that Mattel has no claim to the Bratz dolls.
HOBSON: And the jury not only sided with the Bratz owners — it also says Mattel has to pay Bratz $88 million in damages. How did that happen?
BABIN: That’s right. MGA — the Bratz owners — alleged that Mattel had engaged in corporate spying, actually sending moles into toy fairs pretending to be vendors, when actually they were spies working for Mattel. The jury agreed — it found that Mattel had stolen ideas from MGA and that’s where the monetary award comes from.
HOBSON: Marketplace’s Janet Babin, thanks so much.
BABIN: Thank you.
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