You lose, MGA.
Mattel has claimed that the concept for the doe-eyed playthings was the handiwork of a former Mattel designer, dreamed up while he was still working for the giant toymaker. The jury seems to agree.
Mattel was seeking more, but this is a moral victory for a company that has seen its own flagship Barbie dolls fade in popularity. Barbie is still a killer brand, but it seems like everyone -- from Disney's (NYSE: DIS ) Princesses to Build-A-Bear Workshop's (NYSE: BBW ) Friends 2B Made to MGA's Bratz -- has elaborated on the Barbie concept, giving their dolls more ethnic appeal, realistic body shapes, and stylish breadth.
In other words, it's a small battle victory for a company that is missing the bigger war. If anything, the courtroom victory only highlights how Mattel let a good thing go.
Bratz has been huge for MGA. Last year's Lions Gate (NYSE: LGF ) distributed film and Ubisoft video games were impressive, but can you imagine how much bigger Bratz would have been if it had been marketed by a global juggernaut like Mattel or Hasbro (NYSE: HAS ) ?
Was Mattel wronged? The federal court seems to think so. Were Mattel shareholders wronged by Mattel management for letting a toy designer with an eventual breakthrough concept go? Sure. If you're going to cheer toymakers for their successes -- like JAKKS Pacific (NYSE: JAKK ) with its EyeClops last year, or the early stage LeapFrog (NYSE: LF ) with its LeapPad several years ago -- you may as well hold them accountable for the ones that got away.
The favorable verdict is great, especially if Mattel is able to collect it. However, investors have every reason to think "if only" when it comes to the missed opportunity here.
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