MGA Entertainment Scores Another Court Victory for Bratz
VAN NUYS, Calif., Nov. 16, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- MGA Entertainment, Inc. scored another court victory today when a federal district court granted its motion for summary judgment on photographer Bernard Belair's claims that the Bratz dolls infringed an advertisement he created for Steve Madden in Belair v. MGA Entertainment, Inc., Case No. 09-Civ-8870, in which he sought tens of millions of dollars from the Bratz sales. The Honorable Shira Scheindlin of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York today found that "no reasonable trier of fact could find that any of the Bratz dolls are substantially similar to the figures depicted in Belair's copyrighted image."
"Although the Bratz dolls may indeed bring to mind the image that Belair created, Belair cannot monopolize the abstract concept of an absurdly largeheaded, long limbed, attractive, fashionable woman," Scheindlin stated in her opinion. "He has a copyright over the expressions of that idea as they are specifically articulated in [Belair's] image, but he may not prevent others from expressing the same idea in their different ways."
This holding echoes the Ninth Circuit's July 22, 2010 opinion which overturned a jury finding for Mattel in the Mattel v. MGA trial by concluding that "[t]he concept of depicting a young, fashion-forward female with exaggerated features, including an oversized head and feet, is therefore unoriginal as well as an unprotectable idea. . . . Mattel can't claim a monopoly over fashion dolls with a bratty look or attitude, or dolls sporting trendy clothing – these are all unprotectable ideas." Mattel ended up losing its infringement claims in the second trial last spring and being hit with an over $300 million judgment for theft of trade secrets and punitive damages.
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, MGA's trial counsel in 2008 and appellate counsel before the Ninth Circuit on the Mattel appeal, wrote the winning motion for MGA. Skadden replaced Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe in June of this year. At the time, Isaac Larian, Founder and CEO of MGA Entertainment, was effusive in his praise of his trusted counsel, "Thomas Nolan and Jason Russell, partners at Skadden, Arps, are committed to excellence and focused on creative solutions for their clients. Skadden Arps, Tom, Jason and Hillary Hamilton are a few notches above some of the other law firms we have dealt with. They put their clients' interest above that of their own. Tom and Jason have been with MGA every step of the way, from opening arguments in the first MGA trial to writing compelling briefs and making winning arguments on our behalf through the conclusion of the retrial with Mattel. We could not have prevailed without them."
That trust was obviously well-founded as Skadden quickly obtained a complete victory in the Belair action within scant months of replacing Orrick. As Mr. Larian noted, "Our trusted lawyers, Tom Nolan and Jason Russell of Skadden, got rid of this frivolous lawsuit with one summary judgment motion. As I said before, Skadden's work is a few notches above some of the other law firms we have dealt with."
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SOURCE MGA Entertainment