By GILLIAN FLACCUS, Associated Press
SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — Mattel Inc. appealed a $310 million award in its eight-year legal fight over Bratz dolls but will no longer pursue its claim that a rival toy maker infringed on its copyright by developing the lucrative line.
In court papers filed with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, attorneys for Mattel said the company disagreed with the jury finding that MGA Entertainment didn't steal the idea for the pouty-lipped, hip hop-inspired dolls but wouldn't challenge it after the grueling legal battle.
"While we continue to believe that the Bratz designs ... were owned by Mattel, we've decided not to appeal that aspect of the verdict, because we do not wish to have another lengthy trial on the Bratz claims," Mattel spokesman Alan Hilowitz said Thursday.
However, El Segundo-based Mattel did ask the appeals court in the papers filed Monday to reverse the financial judgment entered by a judge based on a jury verdict. The award included $172 million in damages for MGA for misappropriation of trade secrets, and $137 million for MGA in attorney fees and defense costs.
Isaac Larian, the CEO of MGA, said he was pleased Mattel would not challenge the ruling on copyright infringement.
"Bratz and its ownership has always belonged to MGA and was built with the hard work and ingenuity of MGA employees," he said. "As for the damages and legal fees award of $310 million ... I am confident we will prevail upon appeal."
The Bratz dolls were a blockbuster hit for Los Angeles-based MGA when the line debuted in 2001 and generated nearly $1 billion in sales at their peak in 2006.
The two companies have been dueling for years over who owned the copyright to Bratz.
Mattel first sued in 2004, claiming Bratz designer Carter Bryant was working for Mattel when he did the initial drawings on the provocative, urban-themed dolls with large eyes, heads, lips and feet, and tiny noses. The dolls were an overwhelming hit with "tweens" as sales of Mattel's Barbie line declined.
A federal jury found in favor of Mattel in a 2008 copyright infringement trial and awarded the company $100 million in damages.
The verdict was overturned on appeal, however, and a second jury last year found in favor of MGA on the copyright issue.
That jury was also asked to consider allegations in a countersuit filed by MGA that accused Mattel of sending spies to toy fairs and trade shows to steal MGA's trade secrets.
Jurors found that Mattel stole 26 of the 114 trade secrets MGA listed, ultimately resulting in $85 million in damages for MGA.
The federal judge overseeing the case later awarded MGA an additional $85 million in punitive damages for trade secrets misappropriation, and MGA, Larian and the company's Hong Kong affiliate $137 million in legal fees.
Mattel argued in the court papers filed Monday that MGA's lawsuit on trade secrets was filed too late and shouldn't have been included in the trial.
The court also abused its discretion and made errors when calculating the attorney fees and defense costs expended by MGA, the papers said.
Associated Press writer Amy Taxin contributed to this report.
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