Mattel, the maker of Barbie dolls, has won the first round of its copyright infringement court case against competitor MGA Entertainment. A jury found that artist Carter Bryant was under contract to Mattel at the time when he conceived, drew sketches and made models of characters that later became MGA’s popular Bratz range of dolls.
The next stage of the trial, later this month, will decide whether Mattel’s copyrights have been infringed by the Bratz dolls in which case Mattel could be in line for millions of euros in damages. MGA said it will contest that on the grounds that the dolls are substantially different from the original sketches.
Shortly after the court decision, Mattel, which is the world’s biggest toy company,posted a lower second-quarter profit which it blamed on rising expenses. Mattel’s sales in the US did increase 3% and internationally were up by 15%, but worldwide sales of its Barbie dolls fell 6%.
Toy industry analysts said that one reason fewer Barbies are being sold is the popularity of the multi-ethnic, hip-hop-inspired Bratz dolls.
The jury’s decision in the copyright court case could have a significant effect on both companies if it leads to Mattel winning the large damages it is seeking from MGA, along with an injunction to stop its rival from selling Bratz.