A federal jury in Riverside on Tuesday awarded Mattel Inc. up to $100 million in damages from MGA Entertainment Inc. in the hotly contested copyright infringement case over the Bratz franchise. But MGA contends the total is actually much lower.
The jury award breaks down to a $90 million, split between Van Nuys-based MGA and its chief executive, Isaac Larian, to cover what the jury ruled was their interference with doll designer Carter Bryant's employment contract with El Segundo-based Mattel. Another $10 million was assessed for copyright infringement.
No punitive damages were awarded, according to a Mattel spokesman. How much of the $90 million would be Larian's responsibility is not clear.
The award is significantly less than the almost $2 billion sought by Mattel attorneys from MGA and Larian. U.S. District Judge Stephen Larson will make a final determination regarding the total damages award.
An MGA spokesman Tuesday afternoon had tallied the jury award at only $40 million, but by evening MGA released a statement contending that the jury had awarded Mattel only $20 million. Mattel's larger figure was based on erroneous calculation of what were actually duplicative damages, the company contends, and it was confident the judge would eventually reduce the amount. MGA still intends to appeal the verdict in the first trial.
The jury started deliberating last Thursday on damages owed to Mattel for the hip hop-inspired Bratz dolls and Bratz-related products sold by MGA. In the first phase of the trial, the jury found that the drawings were made by Bryant while he was working at Mattel.
In closing arguments last week, Mattel lawyer John Quinn asked for more than $1 billion in profits and interest from MGA. Mattel also sought $790 million in Bratz profits that went to Larian, who also is MGA's majority owner.
But during his closing arguments, MGA attorney Tom Nolan countered that Mattel should only be awarded $30 million in damages.
Before recessing for the weekend last Friday, Larson told jurors that they could decide that only the first generation of Bratz dolls was based on Bryant's work. MGA has said it made only $4 million in profits on the original Bratz dolls.
Rivals Mattel and MGA have been in court since May battling over the pouty Bratz fashion dolls, and the fight is expected to make its way up the appellate court ranks.
"Mattel has pursued this case first and foremost as a matter of principle," said Mattel Chief Executive Robert Eckert in a statement. "We have an obligation to defend ourselves against competitors who choose to engage in fraudulent activities against us. We're pleased that the jury agreed with Mattel that what MGA did was wrong and that damages were awarded."
At the beginning of August, MGA filed an appeal with the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, asking the court to place an emergency halt on the trial after discovering a former juror in the case made racial remarks about executive Larian, an Iranian Jewish immigrant. The court denied to intervene in the trial immediately, but is still considering the appeal.
Mattel shares, which closed up 10 cents to 20.24 in regular trading Tuesday, were down 29 cents, or 1.4 percent, in late after-market trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
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