The Dueling Dolls: Barbie vs. Bratz

We’re used to the story of the Hatfields and McCoys: two rivalry backwoods families who spark images of various family feud stereotypes.  From battling banjoes, shotguns and rifles, moonshining, and the vision of two families shooting bullets from one porch to another, we think that we’ve got it all figured out.  However, family feuds don’t only range from the Kentucky and West Virginia borders.  Nowadays, a feud has launched in Toyland between Mattel, Inc. and MGA Entertainment over the popularity of Barbie versus Bratz dolls.  However, these plastic icons do not have to pull out the heavy weapons as the two Appalachian families from earlier years.  Instead, they’re battling over a number of court cases, millions in dollars, and, naturally, to win the hearts of young girls.

Since Barbie’s debut in March 1959, she underwent a number of changes for toys and women alike.  She held over 130 careers from ballerina to school teacher, veterinarian, and pilot.  She traveled to the moon in the 1960s as an astronaut before Neil Armstrong, and she ran for President in the 1990s before any other woman was ever on the ballot.  Overall, Barbie was a trendsetter and crossed a number of boundaries for women, inspiring young girls to go beyond the status quo.

Then, in June 2001, Bratz dolls were released.  Like Barbie, the dolls were cute, fashionable, and fun, but unlike the original, the Bratz dolls shared popularity among the ethnically diverse group of  four friends and tackled social issues straightforward.  Each doll had her own unique personality and quirks; a different type to which each girl could relate.  The 10-inch dolls gained popularity quickly, and their urban-styled clothing definitely caught a younger audience’s attention.

Sales have definitely fluctuated between Barbie and Bratz over the years.  Originally monopolizing the doll craze, Barbie’s sales were altered with the introduction of its rival.  Bratz outsold Barbie in the United Kingdom for 23 consecutive months in 2001.  More recently, they have made a large decline.  While Barbie’s numbers are not what they once were due to the competition, she is still the largest doll brand.

The feud began legally in 2008 when Mattel challenged Carter Bryant, the maker of the Bratz dolls, over the origin of the pouty, glossy-lipped dolls.  Bryant worked as a designer for Barbie from 1995 through 1998 and from 1999 to 2000.  His first drawings of Bratz were in 1998, which he claimed were inspired after taking a break as a designer for Barbie.  The idea came as he was driving by a rural Missouri high school.  Both Bratz and Barbie drawings were designed in the same notebook.  At this point, Mattel was suing MGA Entertainment over the rights of the original drawings that Bryant made during his time that he worked with Mattel.

Since then, other battles have launched.  In 2011, Mattel was accused of trade secrets, but the verdict was later appealed.  Earlier this year, once again, Mattel was sued for sending corporate spies to toy conventions and showrooms since 1992.  There have been other accusations of fake business cards for trade show entry, awarding employees for stealing secrets from MGA, illegal video taping, and providing manuals with “stealing” instructions.  The fight is currently dragging out in court with both toy companies squabbling over who began the damage.

Similar to the two families of the 1800s, the Barbie and Bratz nine-year conflict continues.  Currently, Mattel seems to receive most of the legal hits, despite MGA supposedly looting one of their most precious commodities.  The two dolls keep swapping plastic fists back and forth, for a possible ongoing legal war.  Meanwhile, the imaginations of young girls are completely oblivious.

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