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USD Professor Delves Into Barbie’s Decade-Long Fight Against Bratz

USD Professor Delves Into Barbie's Decade-Long Fight Against Bratz


Orly Lobel, author, "You Don't Own Me"


Photo caption: The book cover for "You Don't Own Me" by Orly Lobel.

Photo credit: W.W. Norton & Co.

The book cover for "You Don't Own Me" by Orly Lobel.

Barbie was the undisputed queen of girls' toys for decades, until Bratz dolls arrived in 2001. Bratz were more ethnically diverse than Barbie and moved away from the impossibly-proportioned Barbie figure. They quickly became a top-seller and set off a decade-long legal battle worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Barbie-maker Mattel argued that it owned the rights to Bratz because its creator Carter Bryant had worked for Mattel when he came up with the ideas behind Bratz. Bryant had signed away the rights to any inventions he came up with "at any time in his employment" as part of his standard employment contract.

University of San Diego law professor Orly Lobel chronicles the toy titans' fight in her new book, "You Don't Own Me: How Mattel v. MGA Entertainment Exposed Barbie's Dark Side." She argued the American legal system is an outlier in the world, with many other countries requiring companies to give some type of reward to employees who come up with new ideas.

"As increasingly is the case among leading brands across all industries, the fights in the toy industry are now focused on controlling existing ideas rather than creating news ones," Lobel wrote. "The battle hymn for market dominance demands we ask: Does the current hyper-protection of intellectual property promote more innovation or perversely impede it?"

Lobel joins KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday with more on her research into how the Barbie case is shaping current law.

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