A blog on IP ownership appropriately starts with Bryant v. Mattel, Case 2:04-cv-09049-SGL-RNB in the Central District of California, otherwise known as Mattel v. MGA Entertainment. This, of course, is the case about Bratz dolls – seems the designer, Carter Bryant, worked at Mattel twice and claims to have designed the dolls between his gigs with Mattel, even shopping them around during his second stint with Mattel.
Bryant had an agreement with Mattel that it claims gave it the ownership of his designs. Mattel filed a motion for summary judgment on ownership of at least some of the designs on a contract theory. The language of the contract is quoted here starting at page 4; it could be clearer that it covered copyrighted works as well as patentable inventions. There’s no mention in the motion about Mattel’s potential ownership as a work made for hire under section 101 of the Copyright Act (defining a work made for hire as “a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment”; Bryant apparently designed for the Barbie line of dolls). Query whether Mattel is making this claim at trial instead or why it elected not to — although the case has thousands of docket entries and a number of related cases, which I didn’t review. The case started as a declaratory judgment action by Bryant in 2004, so the argument may already have been made and rejected somewhere else along the way.
As of today the trial is still going on. Don’t miss the highlight so far, Bryant’s use of a software program called “The Evidence Eliminator” two days before investigators copied his hard drive. Bryant invoked the deleting porn justification as his reason.