Southern California’s Iranian Jewish community has been abuzz following news last week that one of their own, businessman and toymaker Isaac Larian won his second lawsuit against U.S. toy giant Mattel over a seven year dispute regarding copyright ownership of the widely popular “Bratz” toy dolls Larian’s MGA Entertainment created and sold. The jury last week awarded MGA nearly $89 million in damages. Larian throught out the lawsuit has become an underdog hero to many local Iranian American Jewish business owners who have come to admire his strength in standing up to a major competitor who has been trying to crush his successful business from the start.
Local Iranian Jews have by in large stood by Larian despite his 2008 lawsuit loss to Mattel which claimed that his company had stolen the idea for the “Bratz” dolls. The 2008 jury decision was overturned last year by an appeals court, which ruled that MGA deserved “sweat equity” for producing and marketing the dolls. The appeals court said Mattel couldn’t claim a monopoly over dolls and ordered a new trial in U.S. Federal Court. This time around, jurors heard not only the copyright claims but also accusations from each company that the other side stole trade secrets. Among its claims, MGA accused Mattel of sending employees into its showrooms at industry trade shows to spy on its products and also accused Mattel of passing out an internal “how to steal” manual.
While this lawsuit may continue with Mattel potentially appealing the second trial, I can’t understand why in god’s name they have spent nearly $400 million to fight Larian for all these years. From a business perspective it seems like a financially unwise move and downright vindictive! It seems as if their hope was to drive Larian out of the toy business with all these years of litigation. In 2007 I interviewed Larian and found him to be a genuine and hardworking individual who was indeed living the American dream. He came to the U.S. as an immigrant teenager who worked hard at a minimum wage job and over years finally achieved tremendous success through his own hard working efforts. His ties to the local Jewish community and support of various charities has been widely publicized over the years.
My 2007 interview with Larian can be found here.