A federal judge said Tuesday that he might toss an antitrust lawsuit MGA Entertainment filed against Mattel Inc. in the latest spat between the two toy makers battling for supremacy in the fashion doll market.
U.S. District Judge David O. Carter issued a tentative ruling dismissing the suit, saying it is based on the same facts as prior litigation that awarded MGA nearly $310 million. Carter said he would likely let MGA re-file for any alleged anti-competitive conduct that occurred since August 2010.
The judge cautioned, however, that he has been known to change his mind about 20 percent of the time after hearing oral arguments, and he took the case under consideration after the companies' lawyers argued their points Tuesday.
MGA, which makes the pouty-lipped Bratz dolls, filed its antitrust suit against Mattel, which makes Barbie, in February.
At the time, a trial was under way over the copyright to the Bratz doll line. In April, a jury in that case awarded $85 million to MGA and found that Mattel stole the company's trade secrets. Carter later added punitive damages and attorney fees, bringing the total to nearly $310 million.
Mattel, which had originally sued MGA over the Bratz dolls, is appealing the multimillion-dollar verdict.
Now, MGA is using an appeals court ruling stemming from an earlier phase of the case as ammunition for its antitrust suit. MGA claims Mattel tried to kill the smaller company by litigating it to death.
On Tuesday, MGA attorney Max Blecher argued that aspects like the relevant market and entry barriers were never litigated, and he pleaded with Carter to give him the chance to do so. He said the case shouldn't be limited to alleged incidents since August 2010, when MGA filed a series of counterclaims against Mattel.
"No one adjudicated whether they do or do not have monopoly power," Blecher told the court in Santa Ana.
But Mattel said the facts at the heart of the dispute between the toy makers haven't changed and the case shouldn't be litigated twice.
"What matters is, is there a substantial overlap in proof? And that clearly is met here," said Mike Zeller, an attorney for Mattel.