It's Barbie vs. Bratz in California Courtroom Battle Two dolls go head-to-head in a California courtroom on Tuesday. It's Barbie vs. Bratz in a legal battle over whether MGA Entertainment's Bratz — which does $500 million a year in sales — is the result of work done at Barbie-owner Mattel.
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It's Barbie vs. Bratz in California Courtroom Battle

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It's Barbie vs. Bratz in California Courtroom Battle

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It's Barbie vs. Bratz in California Courtroom Battle

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

From NPR News it's Day to Day. The business press is calling it the doll brawl. The makers of two of the most popular toys in the world go to court tomorrow. Barbie maker Mattel is accusing the company behind the Bratz dolls of stealing concepts, and hundreds of millions in market share. Marketplace's Amy Scott joins me. Amy, who are the players in this fight?

AMY SCOTT: OK, well, we all know Barbie, the reigning queen of fashion dolls who turns 50 next year, by the way. In 2001 a company called MGA came out with this sort of hipper, sassier, urban answer to Barbie. They're known as the Bratz. They wear bellbottomed pants and midriff bearing tops, and have names like Yasmin and Sheridan. And they've taken a significant chunk out of Barbie's sales. Well it turns out these dolls were created or inspired, depending on who you ask, by a former Mattel employee. His name is Carter Bryant. Mattel says because Bryant dreamed up the Bratz while under contract at Mattel, Mattel is entitled to a share of the profits.

CHADWICK: So and in fact, this employee has settled with Mattel over some kind of arrangement.

SCOTT: He has. Last week. Though we don't know what the terms of that settlement are. But Mattel's copyright infringement lawsuit against MGA will go forward this week. Now Bryant has said that he came up with the idea between stints at Mattel. Mattel will aim to prove that the original drawings were done while Bryant was still under contract. Meanwhile, MGA has played down Bryant's role in creating the dolls and has filed its own countersuit against Mattel claiming that Mattel copied the Bratz in it's My Scene dolls or My Scene, and has used its clout with retailers to suppress competition.

CHADWICK: Well, if the Barbie side wins, how serious could this be for MGA?

SCOTT: Well, I asked independent toy analyst Chris Byrne about that, and he says it's hard to say.

Mr. CHRIS BYRNE (Independent Toy Analyst): MGA, being a private company, we don't really know what the hard numbers are. But I think there may be some kind of licensing fee, and potentially depending on how it's argued, damages of sales that might have gone to Barbie.

SCOTT: Now while Mattel is the largest toy company in the world with many hot brands, about half of MGA's revenues reportedly come from the Bratz. So there is a lot of money on the line.

CHADWICK: So if Barbie or Mattel rather, loses, how big a threat are these Bratz dolls?

SCOTT: Well, they've certainly cut into the Barbie's business. Sales in the U.S. were down 12 percent in the first quarter. But the brand is undergoing a major turnaround effort, and while the Bratz do an estimated 500 million dollars in sales every year, Barbie's sales are more than twice that. So Mattel is still winning the doll game for now.

CHADWICK: Amazing. Thank you, Amy. Amy Scott of public radio's daily business show Marketplace.

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