In the legal dispute between MGA (Bratz Dolls) and Mattel (Barbie Dolls), it is estimated that MGA’s legal cost to date are close to $200 million, meaning that to date MGA has paid $200 million to various law firms to defend the action advanced by Mattel for copyright infringement.
According to Mattel, Bratz Dolls were designed by a former Mattel employee (Carter Bryant) before he jumped ship to MGA. Mattel sought $2 billion in damages, and according to Bob Eckert, Mattel's CEO, pursues the case "as a matter of principle."
Representing El Segundo, California-based Mattel was John Quinn of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan.
Defendant Carter Bryant was represented by Keker & Van Nest's John Keker. Los Angeles-based MGA and founder/CEO Isaac Larian were initially represented by O'Melveny & Myers. However, in 2007 a dispute erupted when O'Melveny insisted that partner Daniel Petrocelli serve as lead counsel in the case.
Mr. Larian was not thrilled about Petrocelli and fired O'Melveny altogether. O'Melveny immediately demanded payment of $10 million it claims MGA and Mr. Larian owe the firm in unpaid and outstanding legal fees.
With a looming 2008 trial date, no counsel, and a threat from O'Melveny that if he does not pay he will be sued, Mr. Larian went knocking on the door of Thomas Girardi of Girardi & Keese.
Specifically, according to an article published in The Recorder, in October 2007 MGA and Isaac Larian asked Girardi to look into the fees it had paid to O'Melveny.
According to the article, Girardi stated, "When O'Melveny couldn't get Petrocelli in the lead chair it wanted off the case. We are taking a look at the massively large fees that happened with the O'Melveny representation. On first blush, it seems like an awful lot of money for what has been accomplished. I think the client has strong reason to have great concern."
At approximately the same time, Girardi's friend -- Thomas Nolan of Skadden Arps -- was chosen to serve as counsel for MGA and Mr. Larian instead of O’Melveny.
As reported in The Recorder, "We decided to put it all under one roof," stated Mr. Larian, "and we decided to go with Skadden and Tom Nolan."
Thomas Nolan, who served as Girardi's counsel (along with Diane Karpman) in the matter of In Re Girardi, is a well-known and respected attorney. According to Mr. Girardi, Thomas Nolan "is like "Wayne Gretsky" - he doesn't look any bigger, tougher or faster, but the next thing you know he's scored four goals. And he's always a gentleman."
A six-week trial was conducted in the courtroom of federal judge Stephen Larson. On July 17, 2008 , the jury returned a verdict for Mattel. More specifically, the jury found that both MGA and Isaac Larian had interfered with Mattel's contractual relationship with Bryant, who had been under the control of Mattel during the time he designed the Bratz Dolls.
Following the verdict, preparations were made for the second stage of the trial to set damages, which were estimated to be approximately $500 million. At the conclusion of that stage, the jury awarded $100 million to Mattel. In addition, Judge Larson issued a draconian injunction against MGA, ipso facto dissolving it.
Following the trial, Thomas Nolan quickly arranged for Howard Rice's Jerome Falk and Douglas Winthrop to join the legal team and file an immediate emergency motion with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Ninth Circuit subsequently reversed the entire judgment and sent the matter back to District Court where it was assigned to a different judge.
Judge Larson – the initial trial judge who had taken a harsh view of GMA and Mr. Larian had left the bench to commence his employment with Girardi & Keese.
Wayne Gretsky is a master strategist and always a gentleman.
Wayne Gretzky is a former professional ice hockey player.