So, there's this guy named Carter Bryant who used to work for Mattel. He decides to look for greener pastures and switches to MGA. He creates a line of Lolita-esque dolls -- hypersexualized, underaged, and malnourished. In June of 2001, a new line of girls' dolls called Slutz Bratz hits the stores. Sales are initially flat. But around Christmas time, sales spiked, and Slutz Bratz caught fire, messing up body images and spelling skills all over the world.
Sales rose quickly, generating $2 bil by 2005. They started taking over market from Barbie, resulting in the incumbent holding 60% of the market and the newcomer holding 40%. Mattel tried to spin the figures (no pun intended), saying that they were still way ahead, Slutz Bratz just had more SKU's, basically. Mattel decided to update Barbie's look, and in 2005, released the "My Scene" collection. MGA sued for infringement, saying that the slanted eyes and such were ripping off their Slutz Bratz designs (which means they better start suing Japanese toy manufacturers for...oh, wait. They were doing those general features first). That lawsuit, as I write this, is still pending.
Well, as Howard The Duck said, "ALL actions have consequences." Mattel countersued, saying that Carter Bryant was still technically under contract with them when he joined MGA, so his work on Slutz Bratz was covered under the "work for hire" clause and the Slutz Bratz line actually belongs to Mattel. In December 2008, a judge agreed and gave Mattel control of the competing product. In April 2009, a federal judge upheld the jury verdict and the $100 mil award.
MGA appealed again. The appellate panel unanimously reversed the decisions, meaning a retrial might be happening. “It is not equitable to transfer this billion-dollar brand, the value of which is overwhelmingly the result of MGA’s legitimate efforts, because it may have started with two misappropriated names."
You know, it's too bad Celebrity Deathmatch isn't on the air anymore, because this would make a hell of an episode. And probably be the most entertaining those dolls have been since the Barbie-Q....