MGA covered up Mattel employee's Bratz role-lawyer
RIVERSIDE, Calif., July 10 |
RIVERSIDE, Calif., July 10 (Reuters) - Toymaker MGA Entertainment Inc helped the creator of its lucrative Bratz dolls hide the fact that he designed the urban chic characters while he was under contract to Mattel Inc MAT.N, Mattel lawyers told jurors in closing arguments on Thursday.
Mattel attorney John Quinn told the jury in U.S. District Court in Riverside, California, that MGA bought Bryant's design to bolster its weak toy offerings and then worked with the creator to cover up his involvement in the franchise.
"This was a perfect marriage of an individual willing to betray his employer and a company needing him to do exactly that," Quinn said.
Barbie maker Mattel has sued family-owned MGA, claiming it owns the original Bratz concept drawings and that the doll's creator, Carter Bryant, made those and other Bratz drawings and models while he was working for Mattel as a Barbie designer.
Closing arguments Thursday by Mattel signaled that the federal trial, which is in its seventh week, is near an end. The two companies are fighting over ownership of the $1 billion-plus Bratz doll franchise.
The line was launched in 2001, and instantly began taking market share from Barbie, whose sales once accounted for more than three-quarters of all fashion doll sales, but have sunk to less than two-thirds.
The lawsuit has been closely watched by the toy industry. The jury's findings could determine which of the two companies will dominate the lucrative fashion doll world that Mattel's iconic Barbie once ruled.
The central question before the nine-member jury is whether Bryant made the original drawings upon which the franchise is based while he was working at Mattel, or during an eight-month hiatus from the El Segundo, California toy giant in 1998.
On Thursday, Quinn said the evidence showed Bryant had added 1998 dates to drawings long after the fact and had torn out drawings from a notebook that contained dated drawings from 1999.
Quinn also argued that MGA Chief Executive Isaac Larian told a series of conflicting stories to the news media about the origin of Bratz to try to conceal Bryant's involvement, knowing he was under contract to Mattel when he first drew four multiethnic, big-headed characters that became the Bratz.
"Mr. Larian did not care when these designs were made," Quinn said. "Whether Carter Bryant was a Mattel employee or not did not matter to him."
Family-owned MGA, the latest in a string of toy companies to battle Mattel in court over a Barbie competitor, contends that Mattel knew from the beginning that its former employee had created Bratz, but sued only after the line was successful in an attempt to take through litigation what it could not produce itself. (Writing by Nichola Groom; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)
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