Monday, January 5, 2009

Design and the Law

Have you ever thought about who owns different images people have designed? It can get complicated. Here are a few examples from this year.

Bratz versus Barbie
In early December a federal judge ordered MGA Entertainment to stop selling Bratz dolls after competitor Mattel won a copyright case. The lengthy court case ended with doll classic Barbie winning over Bratz, a new doll developed by MGA entertainment, which came onto the scene in 2001.

A federal judge banned MGA from making and selling its popular dolls after a four year legal battle with Mattel Inc., the company that sells Barbie. MGA plans to appeal the decision. In the meantime, the company was allowed to sell the doll for the 2008 holiday season. However, only a reversal of the decision will allow MGA to keep their doll on store shelves for much longer.

The ruling followed a jury’s finding that Bratz designer Carter Bryant developed ideas for the doll while working for Mattel. This August, that same jury awarded Mattel a total of $100 million for breach of contract and copyright infringement.

Mattel had seen a 15% decrease in sales of its Barbie doll since the emergence of the Bratz doll. After the courts decision, Barbie stands to maintain its role as the number one doll in the country.

Popeye in Europe
The image of Popeye enters public domain In the European Union. The copyright on the image of the character Popeye expired in the EU as the year began, 70 years since the death of its creator Elzie Segar. The U.S. will have to wait until 2024, 95 years after Segar's death. Only Popeye's image is free of trademark in the EU; the name "Popeye" is still under copyright by King Features Syndicate.

Superman's Longest Fight
Judge Stephen Larson of the Central District of California rule in 2008 that after seventy years, Jerome Siegel’s heirs regain the copyright in the Superman material that was published in Action Comics Vol. 1. The decades old effort by the creators of the Superman character Joseph Shuster (artist) and Jerome Siegel (writer), and later by their heirs to recapture or assert rights to the use of Superman was finally decided in their favor. What remains is an apportionment of profits, guided in some measure by the rulings contained in this Order, and a trial on whether to include the profits generated by DC Comics’ corporate sibling’s exploitation of the Superman copyright.

1 comment:

Bonnie Diehl said...

Another example of design and the law:
Scrabble Sues Scrabulous For IP Infringement

Hasbro's lawsuit calls the online word game Scrabulous a "clear and blatant" infringement of Scrabble's intellectual property.

By K.C. Jones
July 25, 2008 06:25 PM