Press your ear to the ground this morning and feel the subsonic rumblings rolling over from Riverside — better known these days as the Epicenter of Epochal Doll Litigation since Mattel went to war against Bratz manufacturer MGA Entertainment last month over Barbie-centric copyright infringement. And while a jury has already ruled that Bratz designer Carter Bryant conceived the dolls while working for Mattel (as well as MGA boss Isaac Larian's complicity in adapting them for his company), Bratz future are in doubt as aftershocks threaten nearly $2 billion worth of damage on the sassy young brand. But what seismic phenomena could possibly wreak such catastrophe in both the dollscape and the hearts of Bratz-obsessed girls around the world? Aggressive eyebrows and suggestive lips, lawyers argue for starters:
MGA attorneys countered that the jury should award Mattel as little as $30 million because MGA had built the doll line's value with smart additions, branding and packaging. MGA attorney Thomas Nolan said the company made crucial decisions about the Bratz look that weren't included in Bryant's specs. Without the changes, Bratz would have been a bust, he said. "The evidence is uncontroverted that the drawings portray older, edgier, sexier dolls," he said. "The eyebrows were way too aggressive, the lips way too pronounced, the face way too harsh. What (MGA) made is a prettier doll that could compete." The original four dolls expanded to nearly 40 Bratz characters, MGA said, and that drove sales among girls who had to have the latest model. ... "Something else is going on besides Mattel's property in contributing to sales," [MGA attorney Raoul] Kennedy said. "Themes make a difference."
No kidding: The AP reports that Barbie sales are down since the launch of Bratz and their subsequent spin-offs seven years ago, declining 15% in 2007 and 12% in the first quarter of '08 alone. But a forthcoming jury award will reverse a good portion of that, especially after withering testimony from noted karma seismologist Sharon Stone singled out the Bratz movie as an underhanded, "not very nice"tactic in the cutthroat race for tween dollars. That does it — they'll be collector's items by Christmas.