LOS ANGELES In 2009, Barbie will celebrate her 50th birthday in a hyped, yearlong marketing love fest. However, one gift came a little early: her pouty, pretty rival's head on a platter.
U.S. District Judge Stephen Larson has granted Mattel's request for an injunction to stop rival toymaker MGA Entertainment from producing and selling its Bratz dolls, and, in essence, gave control of the brand to Mattel, El Segundo, Calif. MGA may no longer make, sell, advertise or license products from its core Bratz lineup or any line extensions, such as Lil' Bratz, Bratz Boyz and Bratz Petz.
The events follow Larson's ruling that MGA pay Mattel $100 million for taking its intellectual property. This will be a serious setback for MGA, Van Nuys, Calif., whose CEO Isaac Larian, said in a statement he would appeal the ruling.
"Without the Bratz revenues, [MGA's] in serious trouble," said Jim Silver, toy industry expert/editor-in-chief of Timetoplaymag.com. "If you take away the Little Tikes part of the business [which MGA acquired from Rubbermaid in 2006], Bratz probably counted for 80% of their revenue."
As far as the Bratz food chain, the retailers and licensees, Silver said they should be safe. "From what I took out of the ruling, the contracts wouldn't end, it's just that Mattel would collect the royalties," he said. "What happens is that the property becomes Mattel's [intellectual property]. The other way would cause chaos."
The rise and fall of the Bratz brand sounds like a Behind the Music episode, beginning with its 2001 launch and cresting with a Rock Angelz (an album featuring songs of five original Bratz dolls) music deal and movie contract in 2005. Then, tragedy struck: Employees defected to Disney, and dolls were knocked off. Mattel sued, layoffs ensued.
The lawsuit stemmed from the allegation that Bratz designer Carter Bryant originally developed the doe-eyed dolls while he was employed by Mattel.