This story was originally published by The Am Law Daily.
Start consoling your child now. Lady Gaga-inspired Bratz dolls, complete with zombie outfit and a removable head that reveals a bloody stump, may not be on store shelves in time for Christmas.
Bratz-maker MGA Entertainment, Inc., wanted the Gaga-lookalikes shipped to stores this summer to ensure that they are on sale in time for the holidays–but Lady Gaga wants to postpone shipment until 2013, when her next album is set for release.
The discrepancy in shipping dates is at the heart of a $10 million lawsuit filed Tuesday in New York State Supreme Court by MGA against Lady Gaga, her management company Atom Factory, and her merchandizing company Bravado, a division of Vivendi’s Universal Music Group.
MGA, represented by Charles Grimes and Michael Patrick of Grimes & Battersby, claims that Bravado, along with Atom Factory and Lady Gaga, violated the terms of a contract that gave MGA the right to develop, manufacture, and distribute dolls that resemble the artist. In addition to asserting breach of contract, MGA’s complaint asks the court for declaratory judgment that would force Lady Gaga and her team to give the dolls final approval and allow MGA to immediately manufacture and distribute the dolls.
A spokesman for Universal Music Group says the claims are meritless and that the company will vigorously defend itself in court.
At a hearing Wednesday, Proskauer Rose partner Michael Mervis appeared on behalf of Atom Factory and Lady Gaga. Mervis confirmed to The Am Law Daily on Thursday that he and the firm regularly serve as the artist’s outside litigation counsel, but would not comment further. Andrew Bart of Jenner & Block is representing Bravado in the matter. MGA’s counsel at Grimes & Battersby did not return request for comment.
State supreme court Judge Jeffrey Oing denied MGA’s request to order the defendants to okay the dolls’ designs on Wednesday and said he would consider the request again at a hearing in August, according to the New York Daily News. MGA’s lawyers argue that even if the judge grants the order next month, the mini-Gagas still might not make it to stores in time for Christmas, the News reported.
According to MGA’s complaint, Lady Gaga and her management had done nothing to challenge either the doll designs or the summer shipping date as recently as April. According to an email sent by an Atom Factory vice president in March quoted in MGA’s complaint, Bravado and Lady Gaga were pleased with the dolls and suggested just a few tweaks, such as making the facial structure “more supermodel like–think a prettier version of [Lady] Gaga” and giving the doll “more of a cat eye, and a sexier/pouty lip,” the complaint says. The email also requested further discussion about how the doll’s “removable head will work…(we would like to see options with and without a bloody stump for comparison.”
Work on the dolls came to a halt in late April, when Lady Gaga asked to stall their production and distribution until her new album is released in 2013. When MGA refused, “Atom Factory, Lady Gaga and Bravado [conspired] to pretextually withhold ‘final’ approval of the Lady Gaga Dolls in a deliberate attempt to coerce MGA to renegotiate the ‘ship date’ of ‘summer 2012,’” the complaint says. The defendants’ delays violate the $10 million contract between the parties–which included a $1 million advance–and put an estimated $28 million in sales revenue in jeopardy, the complaint says.
MGA’s complaint comes almost two years after it received a second life when a three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit threw out an injunction against the company in its long-running dispute with Barbie-maker Mattel. Mattel had sued MGA for copyright infringement, claiming that Bratz’s creator had conceived of the pouty, slightly slutty line of dolls while he was an employee of Mattel. A federal jury sided with MGA in a retrial in April 2011, and in August 2011 a federal judge ordered Mattel to pay MGA close to $310 million in damages and fees.
E. Joshua Rosenkranz of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe represented MGA on the appeal, while Mattel turned to Daniel Collins of Munger, Tolles & Olson.