RIVERSIDE, Calif., June 11 (Reuters) - The former Barbie designer who created the iconic doll’s successful rival, Bratz, testified on Wednesday in a federal trial that although he signed a contract giving Mattel Inc MAT.N rights to all his creations, he “did not much of an understanding” of it.
Carter Bryant took the witness stand late on Wednesday afternoon for a brief first day of testimony in a trial in which he is the key witness and over whether Mattel or MGA Enterprises Inc owns the billion-dollar franchise.
Family-owned MGA is battling Mattel in the trial in Riverside, California to keep control of the pouty-lipped, big headed urban chic dolls it developed and put on the market in 2001, after buying the rights from Bryant.
Bryant did two stints at Mattel, from 1995 to 1998 and from about from 1999 to 2000. He signed a confidentiality and inventions agreements both times, which gave Mattel rights to anything he created while working there.
“I don’t know that I have that much of an understanding about it at the time,” Bryant told the jury. “I knew that other people in the company also did side projects. It was generally common knowledge.”
MGA Chief Executive Isaac Larian, who preceded Bryant on the stand, testified that the original designs for Bratz were created during Bryant’s eight-month hiatus from Mattel.
Mattel claims it owns Bratz because the drawings were made while Bryant was still under an employment agreement, in which he agreed “to communicate to the company as promptly and fully as practicable all inventions...during my employment by the company.”
Bryant worked as a designer on both the main Barbie lines and on the Barbie collectibles line during his two stints at Mattel.
The agreement “was never really explained,” Bryant testified. “It was part of the packet that we were required to sign...so I’m not sure I had the best understanding of the contract at the time.”
“What I understood is that ‘any designs’ that I had been assigned to work on by Mattel belonged to Mattel,” he said.
Bryant is set to continue testifying on Thursday.
Also on Wednesday, Larian finished a three-day turn on the stand by rebutting earlier testimony by a former MGA executive that he had tried to conceal a Mattel fax number that appeared at the top of Bryant’s MGA contract.
The number appeared at the top of a contract Bryant faxed back to MGA while still working at Mattel in September of 2000, but the number did not appear on top of Larian’s copy.
Larian testified that there were two copies of the contract — one of which he and Bryant both signed at the MGA offices. (Reporting by Gina Keating in Los Angeles; Editing by Kim Coghill)