Although it has lost its best-selling Bratz empire to rival Mattel, MGA Entertainment is hoping to regain prominence on toy store shelves with a new line of fashion dolls Moxie Girlz.
Moxie Girlz may be "Bratz Lite," less sexualized with more modest clothes and less pronounced lips, but there's a striking resemblance. Could MGA Entertainment Inc. be giving Mattel Inc. the ammunition to launch a second legal battle?
"At first glance, I think they look fairly similar," said Lawrence Hadley, an intellectual property attorney in the downtown L.A. office of Hennigan Bennett & Dorman LLP, who is not involved in the case. "But Mattel doesn't own the rights to all dolls in the world. There's got to be a line of what would infringe and what wouldn't infringe."
Hadley said if Mattel were to allege that the Moxie Girlz line infringes on its Bratz copyright, a court would compare the dolls' features, including the shape of the heads, eyes, nose and lips, to the original Bratz drawings. The court would also compare the dolls' body shape, including the size of the waist, and the positioning of the arms, hands, legs and knees to the original drawings.
"Clearly what MGA was trying to do with the Moxie Girlz was to go through the list of similarities that the court pointed out and change those," said Hadley, who examined photos of both doll lines at the Business Journal's request. "And I'm sure what Mattel would do is argue that there are plenty of other features that resulted in finding that the drawings were similar to the original Bratz."
Van Nuys toymaker MGA is doing a phased launch of its Moxie Girlz line with the motto "Be True! Be You!" in an effort to appeal to girls. The dolls, which range in price from $10.99 to $29.99, began appearing on some Target and Wal-Mart shelves July 22. However, MGA expects the line to be available nationwide beginning Aug. 15, and a TV, print, radio and online ad campaign will start in September.
A Target spokeswoman said the dolls were available in all the chain's stores as of Aug. 2, but declined to comment on Moxie Girlz sales thus far. Wal-Mart did not respond to requests for comment. MGA's Chief Executive Isaac Larian has said early sales have been "very good." The closely held company, however, doesn't disclose figures and declined to comment further.
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