Friday, December 19, 2008

Mattel's lawsuit against Bratz

While I was searching online for other Bratz stuff I could use as props for my dolls, I was reminded of the lawsuit that Mattel recently won against Bratz. Not only was Mattel awarded $100 million, MGM also has to discontinue Bratz after the holiday season.

I have serious issues with the outcome of this lawsuit. It was based ostensibly on the fact that the creator of Bratz, Carter Bryant, worked for Mattel (Barbie) when he came up with the idea... But we know the real reason for the lawsuit is because Bratz were causing Barbie's popularity to slip.

So what are we saying here? That when you work for a company, they own every creative idea you have while on their payroll? As a freelance writer, I believe wholeheartedly in a person's rights to their intellectual property, so to me this sounds like intellectual slavery.

And in any case, what entitles Mattel to total domination of the toy market?

I think a company's business practices have a lot of impact on how people — parents especially — view their toys. Mattel has pretty much sealed their fate: My kids will never own a single Barbie!


  1. The designer of Bratz, Carter Bryant, was paid a salary and benefits by Mattel for designing dolls. He then stole something that didn't belong to him and secretly sold it to a competitor for money. MGA and Bryant then lied for years about it. That is, by the way, what a jury and a federal judge found after hearing weeks of evidence. But obviously you are a rocket scientist and a person of rock solid moral rectitude who thinks that is all fine. Really pathetic.

  2. The judge and jury found him guilty of violating the contract. I don't disagree with you there. He did violate it.

    My problem is that I don't agree with exclusive contracts. They give all creative rights to multi-billion dollar companies, basically making it so that the creative producers don't even own their own ideas anymore.

    And since you have to sign the contract to get the job, you really don't have a choice in the matter. I think it's a perfect example of big business taking advantage of the "little guy."

    Admittedly, I know nothing about Bryant lying about what he did. I haven't paid attention to the case until recently. My problem is with the contract and the contract alone.

    In any case, I don't appreciate being called pathetic, simply because I believe big companies are taking more rights than they deserve.

  3. While I don't agree with such clauses either, and never sign them myself, this person willingly did so in exchange for what was likely a nice compensation package. If you value your intellectual/creative gifts, you don't sell them ... period. I think it's simply a case of 'you can't sell your soul and then decide to buy it back' when you decide you need it after all. If more people would look at the big picture instead of the dollar signs, situations like this would never arise. Of course, since I'm a big-picture, wouldn't-sell-my-soul-for-all-the-money-in-the-world type of person, I'll never be rich, but I will be content and free. ;o) But sheesh, Year, do you really think you had to get so uptight about someone voicing a personal opinion? That's kind of the point of blogs after all.

  4. I agree with you, Kathy, that he obviously did sign it willingly. I guess that does have to count for something.

    However, I also think that perhaps you and I are more educated about the consequences of contracts, since as freelancers we deal with them on a daily basis. If my first (and only) full time writing job had put a contract in front of me, I probably would have signed it regardless, because I didn't know anything about such things then.

    I don't know how experienced Bryant was with the business and the contracts, so I can't speak for that, but I do think that the average person has no clue what the potential reprisals could be for signing such a contract.

  5. Of course, since I'm a big-picture, wouldn't-sell-my-soul-for-all-the-money-in-the-world type of person, I'll never be rich, but I will be content and free. ;o)

    By the way, I completely agree with you on this, Kathy. One of the reasons why I love freelancing -- it gives me more autonomy over my own life!

  6. Whoa.A little late to the discussion,still would like to add.
    Design is ALWAYS inspired. It is intellectual property of the designer, and when corporations try to contractually own an intangible, hello gray matter,uh,area. For myself, I think Mattel shot themselves when they altered a winning formula.When I look at new Barbie products for my nieces I am disappointed in the selection, the quality of the dolls,and the themes.Then I look at the Bratz.No wonder my 12 year old niece wants padded bras and a full array of cosmetics. I think if someone were to come out with a Hattie the Hooker doll they'd be rich.



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