It was about a year ago when Mattel of El Segundo won its eye-widening court case that put it on the path to take over the line of Bratz dolls from MGA Entertainment of Van Nuys.
Oh, sure, other skirmishes followed. Mattel earlier this year accused MGA of maneuvering to wrest back the dolls. But for the most part, the big doll brawl was finished last year. And it was the end of one audacious, memorable corporate fracas.
Wait a minute. Hold on to your Barbies. Maybe it’s not the end.
MGA a few months ago unveiled a line of dolls called Moxie Girlz that could be mistaken for Bratz dolls. There are four multiethnic Moxie dolls, much like the four Bratz dolls, and they have huge eyes and wear fashionable clothes, much like Bratz. (However, they are slightly less sexualized, from which parents like me can take some small comfort.) And since they retail for $19.97 each, they even cost about three bucks less than a Bratz doll.
That’s still not the end. MGA rolled out another line of dolls called Best Friends Club. Each doll has a book and a back story; each one deals with some life issue, such as bullying at school or a boy who doesn’t seem interested.
Hmmm. Sound like Mattel’s American Girl to you? Well, yeah, except they cost a lot less: $39.99 vs. the $95 or so for an American Girl.
What’s next? Will Mattel retaliate by targeting MGA’s Rescue Pets? Will MGA go after Mattel’s Hot Wheels? Scrabble games? Uno?
Personally, I’d love to see this mixed-martial-arts contest between these two big local companies go another round. I’m not above that. If anything, I’m beneath it.
But here’s the best part: This blood feud has moved out of the court house, where these kinds of conflicts are always stilted and confined, and it has migrated to the exact place where companies like these should be unfettered to have a free fight. And that’s in the marketplace.
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The Dole Food Co. last week finally made the good decision to drop its defamation lawsuit against the Swedish filmmaker who did a hit piece on the Westlake Village company.
The filmmaker, Fredrik Gertten, produced a film called “Bananas!” that glorified an L.A. lawyer who rounded up Nicaraguan workers to sue Dole because they claim they became sterile after working around a banned pesticide that Dole still sprayed on its banana plantations there. After the film was produced, but before it was released, the judge in the case ruled that the supposedly crusading lawyer may have participated in a fraud in which at least some of the workers weren’t sterile at all and some hadn’t even worked on the plantation. (That lawyer, Juan Dominguez, is known locally for his “Accidentes” ads that used to appear on the backs of buses here.)
Gertten released the film anyway, and Dole sued.
Bad move on both their parts. Gertten should have pulled his film or repurposed it. Dole shouldn’t have made itself look petty by suing.
This is a free-speech issue. Gertten’s film should be shown. He should be allowed to state his case. And Dole should affirmatively get its story out. It should state why it thinks Gertten is full of it and why it believes his film is biased.
People aren’t stupid. They can hear both sides and decide for themselves. That is best done outside a courtroom and in the free and open marketplace of ideas. (See item above.)
Charles Crumpley is editor of the Business Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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