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Publishing

Mattel CEO Eckert testifies at Bratz trial

RIVERSIDE, California (Reuters) - Mattel Inc's MAT.N CEO said on Tuesday he saw no problem with recruiting executives from competitors, despite his company's claims that rival MGA Entertainment Inc improperly poached its employees to launch its Bratz doll line in 2001.

Mattel Chairman and Chief Executive Bob Eckert also testified, at a federal trial over Mattel’s claims that it owns Bratz, that he once said journalists were “sloppier, less professional, less moral, less caring, more biased, less honest about their mistakes” than in the 1980s.

That comment, made at a 2004 commencement address, could undermine some of the evidence introduced by Mattel’s lawyers from news accounts of the origins of Bratz.

Mattel accuses MGA of secretly buying the Bratz design from Mattel designer Carter Bryant and then trying to cover up his involvement by concocting false media accounts about who invented the doll after it became a best seller.

MGA Chief Executive Isaac Larian testified earlier in the trial that he was misquoted in some of those accounts.

In a lawsuit filed in 2004, Mattel claimed it owns the original concept drawings for the four Bratz dolls because Bryant was working as a Barbie designer at its design studio in El Segundo, California, when he made them.

MGA, a family-owned toymaker that turned Bryant’s drawings into a billion-dollar franchise, contends the original drawings were made in 1998 during a hiatus Bryant took from Mattel.

The Bratz line was launched in 2001, and became an instant hit and began taking market share from Mattel’s Barbie.

A jury in the trial in Riverside, California, will decide which company owns the drawings and others that Bryant made after he returned to Mattel, and whether MGA should forfeit some or all of its profits for Bratz.

Under questioning from MGA attorneys, Eckert also testified that he believed "all of the dolls in the fashion doll category compete with one another" and later, that Mattel produces a line of dolls for Walt Disney Co DIS.N.

He later testified that he had personally interviewed an executive to run Mattel’s boys division twice while the man was still employed at Disney.

“Do you think it is wrong to recruit executives from competitive toy companies?” MGA attorney Thomas Nolan asked Eckert.

“No I don’t think it is,” he said.

Eckert is scheduled to continue testifying on Wednesday.

Editing by Braden Reddall

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