Considering the preponderance of plastic, empty-headed bleach blondes one finds around these parts, at least a few have likely found their way into the federal courthouse in Santa Ana. But the two fitting the same description going before a judge at the Reagan today have achieved icon status without boob jobs, sugar daddies or Balboa Bay Club pool privileges.
They are Barbie and the Bratz, the girlhood dolls of different generations.
Mattel Inc., which owns Barbie, is trying yet again to prove in court that MGA Entertainment Inc. stole the toy company's intellectual property when it created the Bratz line a decade ago.
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In 2004, Mattel alleged MGA hired away a Mattel employee who had originally created the Bratz sketches for Mattel. A jury in 2008 awarded the worldwide toy brand a cool $100 million. But the 9th District Court of Appeals overturned that verdict, so back before Judge David O. Carter the two sides go.
In the months leading up to the new trial, MGA has accused Mattel of destroying evidence and other legal misdeeds that Carter has already indicated the jury will not hear. But the judge will allow MGA to present evidence of Mattel dispatching "gumshoes" to infiltrate toy fairs at which MGA displayed its products. Mattel has called those accusations part of a "meritless, last-minute effort to deflect attention from MGA's years of well-documented wrongdoing."
Meanwhile, toy-industry watchers say the Bratz line is not as hot as it was back in the day, that the legal fees to fight off Mattel have already left MGA crippled.
"If Mattel wins, what do they win?" Sean McGowan, a toy-industry analyst at Needham & Co., tells Reuters. "They get a shoddy brand that's a shell of its former self."