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Published: Friday, 4/22/2011

Bratz dolls manufacturer wins $88.4M from Mattel

MGA chief executive Isaac Larian, left,  celebrates a victory over Mattel Inc. outside of federal court in Santa Ana, Calif., Thursday. MGA chief executive Isaac Larian, left, celebrates a victory over Mattel Inc. outside of federal court in Santa Ana, Calif., Thursday.

MGA Entertainment Inc. won an $88.4 million award against Mattel Inc. from a jury that ruled MGA didn't steal the idea for Bratz dolls from the rival toymaker or infringe its copyright.

The federal court jury in Santa Ana, Calif., found Mattel, the Barbie doll maker, liable for stealing MGA's trade secrets when its representatives used fake identities to gain access to MGA's showrooms at toy fairs.

"I think this is really a great victory for all the entrepreneurs around the world, for MGA employees, for my family, and more importantly, for all the immigrants who come to this country to pursue the American dream," Isaac Larian, founder and chief executive officer of MGA, said. "It also sends out a message to the multinational companies of the world that they won't be allowed to bully us."

Jennifer Keller, a lawyer for Van Nuys, Calif.-based MGA, said the company can seek punitive damages that may triple the award because the jury found Mattel's conduct was "willful and malicious," as well as attorney fees.

The jury rejected Mattel's claim that MGA stole its trade secrets in 2000, when MGA made an agreement with Carter Bryant, the designer who Mattel says worked for it when he came up with the idea for Bratz and made the first sketches. It also rejected claims that the dolls MGA started selling in 2001 violated Mattel's copyright.

Michael T. Zeller, a lawyer for Mattel, said the company will ask the judge to set aside the jurors' findings and rule in favor of the Mattel claims they rejected.

The jury awarded Mattel $10,000 in damages on its claims that MGA interfered with the contract of Mattel's former employee. The jury also found that Mattel should have known as early as 2002 about the contract interference.

A federal appeals court last year overturned a 2008 verdict in Mattel's favor. A jury had awarded Mattel $100 million in damages after agreeing that Mr. Bryant made most of the initial sketches for the dolls while he worked for Mattel. Mattel had sought as much as $1 billion in damages.

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