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A federal judge has dismissed an antitrust suit brought by MGA Entertainment Inc. against Mattel Inc., concluding that it raised allegations that were too similar to the claims already contained in a related copyright case between the parties, but gave the Bratz doll maker an opportunity to amend its complaint. In issuing his final order on Oct. 20, U.S. District Judge David Carter in Santa Ana, Calif., did not sway from his tentative order issued on Oct. 11. He appeared unconvinced that MGA was asserting claims that arose after Aug. 16, 2010, the date of the last motion that MGA filed in the copyright case. In that motion, MGA had asserted numerous counterclaims including trade secret appropriation, wrongful injunction and violations of the U.S. Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. "All of MGA’s abuse of process claim and a substantial portion of MGA’s antitrust claim rely on Defendants’ conduct during and in preparation for litigation prior to August 16, 2010," Carter wrote. Additionally, he said, "MGA’s current claim was compulsory and should have been brought in the prior litigation." But he gave MGA until Nov. 11 to file an amended complaint. MGA brought the antitrust suit on Feb. 2 against Mattel and its chief executive officer, Robert Eckert, alleging violations of Section 2 of the Sherman Act and abuse of process. MGA claimed that Mattel engaged in a "kill Bratz" strategy to ensure a monopoly in the fashion doll business. Mattel had moved to dismiss the action, citing procedural challenges that prohibited MGA from bringing claims similar to those in the copyright case. MGA’s attorney, Maxwell Blecher of Blecher & Collins in Los Angeles, had attempted to argue during a hearing on Oct. 11 that the antitrust violations continued after Aug. 16, 2010, and arose only after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on July 22, 2010, reversed a $100 million verdict for Mattel in the first trial of the copyright case. A 9th Circuit panel wrote: "Mattel can’t claim a monopoly over fashion dolls with a bratty look or attitude, or dolls sporting trendy clothing — these are all unprotectable ideas." In a retrial, a federal jury on April 21 awarded MGA $88.5 million in damages after finding that Mattel stole trade secrets by planting spies at industry trade shows. The jury found no copyright infringement but awarded Mattel $10,000 after finding that MGA and its chief executive officer, Isaac Larian, intentionally interfered with the contract between Mattel and the designer of the Bratz doll. On Aug. 4, Carter, who also oversaw the retrial in the copyright case, issued a $310 million final judgment. Mattel has indicated it plans to appeal. MGA spokeswoman Susan Hale did not respond to a request for comment. But in an earlier statement, she said: "If the ruling remains the same we shall amend the antitrust lawsuit. We may also consider other options." Mattel spokeswoman Heather Wilson declined to comment. Contact Amanda Bronstad at [email protected].

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