SANTA ANA, Calif. – A federal judge has limited the scope of toy maker Mattel Inc.'s copyright infringement claims against rival MGA Entertainment Inc. in an upcoming retrial over ownership of the popular Bratz doll line, he will allow Mattel to pursue claims that MGA stole trade secrets.
U.S. District Judge David Carter ruled late last month that Mattel can only pursue copyright claims against MGA for the first-generation of Bratz dolls, which were introduced in 2001, and for two subsequent dolls called "Formal Funk Dana" and "Ooh La La Cloe."
The El Segundo-based maker of the Barbie doll can also pursue copyright infringement claims against MGA involving "sculpts" — undressed and unstyled molds — that were used to manufacture the Bratz line, Carter wrote in his 117-page opinion.
"The whole line is still at issue even for copyright because of the sculpt," said Mike Zeller, a Mattel attorney. "The jury will decide if there's infringement of the underlying doll sculpt and how much we should be paid for that."
A spokeswoman for Los Angeles-based MGA did not immediately return a call Wednesday but said in an earlier e-mail that CEO Isaac Larian was the only person authorized to speak publicly about the litigation. Larian was out of the country and did not reply to an e-mail Wednesday or return a message left at his office.
A federal jury in Riverside County awarded Mattel $100 million in 2008 and found that Bratz designer Carter Bryant developed the concept for the dolls while working for Mattel. The panel awarded Mattel $10 million for copyright infringement and up to $90 million for breach of contract after a lengthy trial stemming from a 2004 Mattel lawsuit.
The verdict, however, was overturned on appeal and sent back for retrial.
The post-trial dispute centered on whether the jury found that only the first generation of Bratz dolls infringed on Mattel's copyright or whether all the dolls in the line were in violation.
The jury verdict form asked panelists only to find whether there was infringement and assign a dollar reward but did not ask them to specify which dolls violated the law.
The case was reassigned to Carter, in federal court in Santa Ana, for the retrial.
Openings statements are expected to begin Jan. 18 unless an appeals court overturns an order that denied MGA a delay to change lawyers. The trial is expected to last up to four months.
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