Barbie v. Bratz: Debating the Payout


The jury Thursday begins deliberating how much money to give Mattel , if any, in its case against Bratz maker MGA Entertainment and CEO Isaac Larian.

The jury already determined that the original drawings for the Bratz dolls were created by former Mattel employee Carter Bryant while he was still under contract with Mattel, meaning Mattel owns that artwork. The jury must now decide whether the resulting 3-dimensional dolls are "significantly similar" to the drawings, making MGA and Larian potentially liable for copyright infringement.

Mattel is asking for nearly $2 billion in compensatory damages plus interest, as well as any punitive damages the jury might decide to slap on as punishment.

Here are some images the Mattel team introduced into evidence to try to prove that the dolls look very much like the drawings. On the left of each exhibit is the original sketch by Carter Bryant, followed by some tweaking, and finally the original Bratz doll on the right.

This is for the Sasha doll:


Here are closeups of what eventually became the head for the Jade doll:



And this compares the original drawing for a the face of a doll Bryant named Lupe, compared to the Bratz Yasmin doll:



MGA argues that even if jurors believe the original dolls are significantly similar to the Bryant sketches, later versions of the dolls are quite different, and Mattel did not have any copyright infringed on these items.


Here's an example of one of the latest dolls (left):

A reader who wishes to remain anonymous, thinks my coverage of yesterday's closing arguments was biased towards MGA:

"Obviously you've allowed the emotional response that MGA wanted the public to feel sway you. The 'gentle' Issac Larian simply being pushed around by the toy Juggernaut Mattel. This picture that you paint with your article is simply not true, When you examine the facts of the case it is clear that MGA not only knew they were participating in fraud but also sought to cover it up.

In our system of business, acting illegally is not supposed to grant financial rewards. This doesn't always hold true, but, hopefully, it will in this case. This is simply not an issue of a bigger company picking on a smaller one, it is a smaller one attempting to steal from a larger one!! Check your emotions at the door next time you try to write business column."

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