Bratz Cease-and-Desist Shocker!


Forget the boring old Big Three Auto maker bailout hearings — for parents of pre-Tween girls, the major business news this week is Mattel and Barbie’s resounding victory over MGA and their upstart Bratz dolls.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The rowdy Bratz dolls have been evicted. Barbie has regained control of the dollhouse.

Toy giant Mattel Inc., after a four-year legal dispute with MGA Entertainment Inc., touted its win in the case Wednesday after a federal judge banned MGA from making and selling its pouty-lipped and hugely popular Bratz dolls.

“It’s a pretty sweeping victory,” Mattel attorney Michael Zeller said. “They have no right to use Bratz for any goods or services at all.”

U.S. District Judge Stephen Larson rocked the toy industry with his order that MGA must immediately stop manufacturing Bratz….

The decision was a stunning defeat for MGA, which exploded onto the tween scene in 2001 with the edgy dolls and made hundreds of millions in profits, giving Mattel’s more classic doll-diva Barbie a run for her money….

Mattel has fought to neutralize the Bratz line for years. The dolls — with their huge lips, pug noses, almond-shaped eyes and coquettish figures — were an instant hit with young girls. MGA had taken Bryant’s original four dolls and spun out a line of more than 40 characters, complete with accessories and related toys such as Bratz Boyz, Bratz Petz and Baby Bratz…. The judge’s injunction named all 40 dolls in the Bratz line, including the four originals — Yasmine, Chloe, Sasha and Jade.

I have been living in fear of the day when Celie and Iris learn about Bratz, Barbie’s evil, “sassy” (a.k.a. hyper-sexualized) cousins.

Note however that the judge “allowed MGA to wait until the holiday season ends to remove the toys from store shelves.”  But will any sane parent purchase a Bratz doll now knowing that repair/maintenance services, including the necessary silicon/Botox refresher treatments, will be discontinued in February???

13 thoughts on “Bratz Cease-and-Desist Shocker!”

  1. I’m so pleased about this development. Some of Molly’s friends have this brand of doll, and I’ve not allowed her to own any, despite the many requests.

    The article doesn’t seem to address _why_ the judge ruled in this way. What was the exact cause of the grievance? It is isn’t simply that the Bratz dolls are hyper-sexualized evil role models, is it?

  2. Oh, good point.

    “The ruling, issued in federal court in Riverside, followed a jury’s finding that Bratz designer Carter Bryant developed the concept for the dolls while working for Mattel.

    The same jury later awarded Mattel $10 million for copyright infringement and $90 million for breach of contract after a lengthy trial stemming from Mattel’s 2004 lawsuit ended in August.”

  3. Does this just mean that Mattel will be taking over the empire?

    My girls thought the dolls were called “Brutes” for some reason and I encourage them in that error.

    We’ve mostly kept away from them, although one of my girl got a “baby bratz” doll for a present. Really weird–the midriff-bearing top and butt-crack showing daisy dukes on a doll representing a pre-schooler.

    I swear that I was behind a lady at checkout who was buying a “Bratz Nightclub set” that was just a bar with toy cocktails once…

  4. Fascinating! So the legal decision is based on rules of commerce. (What about free speech?)
    I would love the psychologists and cultural anthropologists to get to work on whether kids like these dolls per se or because of the TV/advertising/commercial saturation of their (the kids’) psyches. I will consult with my neighbor Diane Levin.

    Also the evolutionary psychologists should be consulted about the curvaceousness ratio and pouty lips…

    Will the dolls and paraphernalia become collectors items ? Will the prices go up on e-bay?

  5. the best part of this is, obviously, the part where you admit having “lived in fear” of the Bratz. heh. parents are weird.

  6. I hate Bratz, but I think some of those non-compete clauses are sort of out of control. I’ve seen ones before that say that they own everything you think of while you work for the company — not just things developed from 9-5 on company time, but like any relevant intellectual property. That creeps me out. What are they buying with that annual salary? Total rights to all brain activity?

    In California most non-compete clauses that restrict how long you are banned from work for a competitor after leaving your employer are not unenforceable. It prevents you from earning a living. Despite this, they ask you to sign them constantly.

  7. I completely agree with Miranda that the intellectual-property implications of this case, which I’d been mostly ignoring, are disturbing. I definitely support the rights of employees to retain significant rights to the ideas they develop while in the employ of a corporation. So I guess I should really support MGA’s rights to continue making Bratz in solidarity with those who fight the Mattels and Disneys of the world.

    On the other hand, in this particular case the idea was “hey, what if we made an even sluttier Barbie for 5 year olds?”


  8. In response to the intellectual property rights comments, you need to look at the case more closely. Bryant, the creator of Bratz, was paid a salary to develop dolls for Mattel. He developed Bratz while a Mattel employee and used Mattel resources to do so. Bryant nevertheless secretly sold them to MGA and then he and MGA lied about the origins of Bratz to the press, the public and Mattel for years. It is typical in California for employees to sign — and Courts routinely enforce — inventions agreements that assign to employers those creative works that relate to the employers’ business. There is nothing surprising about this, and Courts have repeatedly rejected arguments that they are not enforceable.

    In fact, MGA requires its employees to sign such agreements too. So, Moonraking, supporting MGA is not at all supporting employees’ rights to ideas. But, even apart from that, why would employers hire any employees at all if Moonraking has his/her way? You think they’ll pay people to develop products that they call sell with impunity to the highest bidder competitor?

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