Impound and destroy

Barbie manufacturer Mattel gets extreme in its quest to ban Bratz dolls for copyright infringement.

By Judy Berman
Published November 12, 2008 2:45AM (UTC)
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The legal battle between Mattel, the company that manufactures Barbie, and its competitor MGA Entertainment, which makes Bratz dolls, has been raging for several years. It seems that Carter Bryant, who designed the sassy, multicultural Bratz line, conceptualized the dolls while on the clock for Mattel. The original lawsuit ended in August, with MGA forced to pay Mattel $100 million in damages for copyright infringement ($10 million) and breach of contract ($90 million).

Barbie has been vindicated, but it looks like she's still not satisfied. It turns out the $100 million judgment against MGA was a drop in the bucket compared with the $2 billion Mattel was seeking. Now, the company -- whose sales of Barbie dolls have decreased 15 percent since last year -- is taking its lawsuit to the next level. Though MGA is no longer marketing the original line of four Bratz dolls, Mattel claims that basic elements of the products' design continue to violate its copyright.

Personally, I can't say I have a (My Little) Pony in this race. Sure, Barbies resemble Stepford wives, big-eyed Bratz look possessed, and both products make me cringe a bit. But I don't really have the legal expertise to tell you who's likely to win the latest battle in the doll wars.

What I can draw your attention to is how freaking creepy and intense Mattel's motion for an injunction against Bratz is. The company is demanding that all products in the Bratz universe -- including Bratz Boyz, Bratz Petz and Baby Bratz -- be impounded and destroyed. You know, like storehouses of heroin or poisoned baby formula. The Bratz dolls are a menace to society, people. As Broadsheet editor Sarah Hepola notes, the injunction is so violent it brings to mind Robert De Niro's angry rant in "The Untouchables": "I want this guy DEAD! I want his family DEAD! I want his house burned to the ground! I want to go there in the middle of the night and piss on his ashes!"

Unfortunately, all of this leaves me with the image of a Mattel executive urinating on the charred remains of an entire family of Bratz. And that ... is just gross.

Judy Berman

Judy Berman is a writer and editor in Brooklyn. She is a regular contributor to Salon's Broadsheet.

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