Nobody messes with Barbie. Not a bunch of squat, midriff-baring dolls with lemur eyes and pouty lips called Bratz, and certainly not MGA Entertainment, the maker of those dolls. On Dec. 3, after a bitter, four-year legal battle between MGA and Mattel over ownership of the Bratz concept, a U.S. district judge ordered MGA to cease production on its wildly popular toy line at once, just in time for Christmas.
Things have been looking grim for MGA since July, when a California jury ruled that Carter Bryant, the creator of Bratz, was technically employed by Mattel, maker of Barbie, when he originally designed the line (Bryant claimed he had been working freelance at the time). The jury determined that Mattel is the rightful owner of the Bratz brand, which has racked up hundreds of millions in sales since it launched in 2001. Compounding the damage, in August, a separate jury awarded Mattel $100 million in damages for copyright infringement and breach of contract. With this month’s ruling, MGA is required to shut down its entire Bratz operation, although dolls will remain on store shelves for now.
If MGA CEO Isaac Larian has anything to do with it, the fight isn’t over. Larian said in an official statement that he intends to appeal the injunction: “We will seek to stay enforcement of this order until our appeal is resolved so we can maintain the over 1,500 people that MGA employs, and continue to give our consumers a product they desire.”
For the time being, though, Mattel is in the enviable position of holding the fate of Barbie’s nemeses in its hands. In a statement, Mattel said it was mulling over its options—which include adopting the Bratz line as its own, or simply letting it die. This much the toy giant has made clear: there is only room for one queen bee in the toy aisle.
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