Friday, April 22, 2011

Mattel loses to the tune of $88 million!

I am sure this will be the story of the day. I almost didn't do a post about it, but I am curious how you think this will affect Mattel, if at all.

Here is a link to an article describing the events.

There were 3 statements in the article that really caught my attention:  The first one,

MGA attorney Annette Hurst says because of that finding, the judge has discretion to multiply the damages up to three times.

All I can say is WOW!  $88 million by 3 is a whole lot of money. The second statement,

Jurors also had to decide if Mattel had proven ownership of the idea for the name "Bratz" and the general concept of a multi-ethnic group of hip, urban dolls with oversize heads and feet, large eyes and lips, tiny noses and small bodies.

Multi-ethnic, hip, urban.... nothing about that says Mattel to me. There was a heck of a lot of money spent fighting this court case.  I wish they had put the hundreds of millions they spent fighting into producing better dolls.  Heck, if they just surveyed the people who buy their dolls, they would have a clearer idea of what would sell.  They seem to operate in a vacuum, throwing darts and guessing what will sell.  Then, when they find something that sells well, they discontinue it.  I think they should do like Disney.  For the product lines that sell well, that have been discontinued, reintroduce them to the market (i.e. Fashion Fever Outfits, Happy Family Dolls and products, etc).

The third statement in the article, which irritated me to no end,

Mattel argued during trial that the contract gave it ownership of all products invented during Bryant's employment at Mattel and also established Mattel's ownership of Bryant's ideas. Attorneys for Mattel also told jurors that the contract language covered Bryant's activities during his evenings and weekends.

Corporate companies can be criminal, at times.  How do you claim ownership over someone's ideas? They want to keep you a slave to their company.  They don't want you to be creative except to make them money.  No company could ever pay me enough to own my ideas!


  1. I agree, Vanessa.

    I just wonder if this is truly over. Will Mattel concede that they failed miserably in their attempt to claim ownership of the Bratz idea or will they continue the fight?


  2. DBG - I thought the same thing. Sometimes egos outweigh common sense. I hope it's over. I would like to see them do something positive with all that extra money they apparently have. How about they work on their articulation and fashions! People shouldn't be buying LIV dolls just for the bodies and clothes. Pretty soon Mattel will be claiming that Spinmaster (maker of LIV) stole some formula they had locked away for better body movement. LOL!

  3. I have worked in the business world a long time. Some of what Mattel is saying is standard practice. You can not work for a company and work for its’ competitor. In most places it is in the handbook. There is a fear of sharing company secretes. Most companies you work for ask to be notified when you take a part-time job and want to approve it. This is also in the handbook. Most people don’t read their handbook and when it is updated, don’t search for the changes and understand it’s impactions. Yeah! The devil is in the details.

    As far as the ideas goes, yeah that is kinda inferred. When you type a letter it is not the company’s ideas or word on the paper it is your! There might be some general instruction but it is yours. When you prepare a training program, a flyer, work with other employees to solve a problem, these are not the companies ideas, these are yours. You don’t get to take this stuff with you when you leave the company—this idea for increasing sales was my idea, so now that I work for XYZ Company, you can no longer do it. The only way you can have some of that kind of right is to be a consultant and brings their own patented ideas to the company. The general work does have a lot of right. You only have rights when you work for yourself. Working for someone else means that they want to maximize what they get from you, while minimizing what they pay you. That is what business and business in a global market has come to. I don't think they are going to let it go or pay the money. Other companies are watching.

  4. Ms. Leo - The gentleman successfully proved that he was working on this project long before he took a job with Mattel. He did not have a part-time job with MGA while working for Mattel. He had a product that he developed, designed, and produced on his own time. It did not belong to Mattel. Hence their lost.

  5. Oh what a tangled web we weave...

    I TOTALLY agree, "Multi-ethnic, hip, urban" doesn't sound like Mattel at all to me. I mean, they STILL leave a lot to be desired culturally, with the dolls they currently have on the market and dolls I've seen that are ready for pre-order.

    Not to sound cynical but I'm glad for the guy. He's the little guy who stood up to the big bad company and it paid off.

  6. Vanessa, I understand what you are saying, I’m tell you the way that the business world looks at it. They are not fair but it is what they do. I work in Healthcare and I been gardening since I could walk! Two years ago my company said that employee could not accept any type of honorarium for any speaking that we do. I asked HR to get an answer; does this include the speaking I do as a gardener? The said yes! This is two unrelated fields!!!!

  7. Ms. Leo - I know that's how they look at it. I worked in Corporate for 12 yrs and left on my own terms, even though I had a high paying presitigious job. That is the beauty of this win. Sometimes it takes someone to stand up and say enough is enough. Usually the little person can't stand up and defend themselves because they don't have the power or money to do so. As for your company, I would have had them show me in writing where I agreed to such nonsense. If they couldn't show me, I wouldn't have paid any attention to them. I have never and will never be afraid to stand up for what's right. I spend a great deal of time looking at documentaries and studying how companies operate. When you see the fraudulent behavior that goes on, you really have to question "standard corporate practices". "Standard" rarely equates to "fair". The little person that gets ahead doesn't do so by playing by their unfair rules. I agree that when you create something for the company using their materials and resources, that belongs to the company. When you have things that you have created before starting to work there, it is not theirs. It's sort of like divorce in most states. If you have property that solely belonged to you prior to marriage, that usually does not get included in any divorce settlement. It is only those items that get accumulated after you guys marry.

  8. Thanks for launching an important discussion on intellectual property rights. Since many of us are crafty and sell our creative work on the side while holding down jobs to pay the bills, the question of who owns your creative ideas is really important.

    The agreement I had to sign when I took my present job made me feel ILL for a day or two because it claimed such comprehensive rights over any ideas I might have that I felt like a slave. The old law under slavery was "partus sequitur ventrum" -- the child takes the condition of the mother. Employers are trying to apply this concept to any and all intellectual property their employees may create -- "You work for us and therefore we own everything you produce, even if you produced it in the hours outside of work."

    I put all my story ideas, character sketches, patterns, mood boards, and photos of finished dolls on a CD and gave it to a friend for safe keeping before I signed that contract. That way, if my employer ever tries to claim ownership of my doll projects, I can prove that I generated those ideas before I went to work for them.

    What scares me the most about employers' claims to own all of your time and ideas is not even the financial loss it could cause if one of your ideas proved marketable. It is the loss of moral rights in your creative work. U.S. copyright law does not recognize an artist's right to stop people from altering his or her aesthetic concept -- i.e. "you can't put a mustache on my Mona Lisa." The only way you can stop people from debasing your work is to own it and take them to court for copyright infringement. I have day mares about some corporation getting hold of my doll designs and producing them with blue and green eyes because they think that will make brown-skinned dolls more "marketable."

    I never liked the Bratz dolls. I would be happy to see them removed from the market because even though they are supposed to be "multi-ethnic, urban, and hip," I always found them to be over-sexualized and therefore regarded them as a poor influence for young girls. I was really disgusted with Mattel's tactics for eliminating this competitor, however, and chilled by their "partus sequitur ventrum" claim.

  9. limbe dolls - Thanks for bringing up some really good points. Having the forethought to document your work and secure it, is a good lesson for all of us creative types. I agree that the Bratz dolls were never my favorite, and I would never believe that Mattel would ever make such a doll. I don't know if the gentleman ever approached Mattel to see if they were interested in his design, but I can imagine they would not be interested in doing so. Heck, they weren't even interested in making their new Basics line more multi-ethnic. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.


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