Saturday, July 26, 2008

Juror is Dismissed in Mattel Trial

Mattel alleges MGA, a competitor, stole the idea of Bratz dolls. MGA's CEO, Isaac Larian, is an Iranian Jewish immigrant. A juror may have influenced the Mattel/MGA case when she told other jurors about her husband's assessment of Iranians: "stubborn, rude, stingy, are thieves and have stolen...ideas."

This comment is rather surprising, given that the founder of eBay is a French-born Iranian (Pierre M. Omidyar); the first female space tourist, Anousheh Ansari, is Iranian; the founder of bebe, a clothing retailer, is Iranian; and one of Google's business founders is Omid Kordestani, an Iranian.

On the bright side, at least the comments weren't considered anti-Semitic or directed at Mr. Larian's Jewish background, so there's some progress there. My take on the issue of Mattel's gripe against MGA? It takes a lot more than an idea and some sketches to bring to market a viable product. Even if the original sketches were designed by someone who happened to be working for Mattel at the time, Mr. Larian obviously took the idea and made it into a viable product. Damages should take into consideration Mr. Larian's performance in terms of advertising his product effectively, investing in international factories to make the dolls, setting up an efficient shipping/export process, hiring the employees, etc.

Unfortunately, any employee who leaves a company who had an inkling of an idea during company time that ends up being successful will be sued. This is like Xerox suing Apple for "stealing" the idea of a computer--it's laughable. A company should not be able to cherrypick ideas through the legal system when it first rejected the idea and did not invest in developing it. If Mattel is smart, it will focus on saving future legal fees (I am not sure if an attorneys' fees provision was available or pled), not fight the inevitable appeal, and settle with Bratz for a small slice of the profits.

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