The Ninth Circuit recently stayed an injunction entered against 玛加 Entertainment, Inc., that would have otherwise required 玛加 to ensure that none of its popular Bratz dolls, the subject of a copyright dispute with toy giant, 美泰, Inc., are available 上 store shelves as of January 21, 2010. The injunction’s requirement that 玛加 also turn over its portfolio of Bratz related trademarks to 美泰 was stayed as well. 美泰 obtained an injunction against 玛加 after a jury found that a former 美泰 employee, Carter Bryant, came up with the Bratz doll idea while under 美泰’s employ, that 美泰 owned the copyrights in the Bratz doll designs, and that 玛加, who hired Carter Bryant after he left 美泰, infringed 美泰’s copyrights.

玛加’s appellate brief submitted to the Ninth Circuit asserted, among other arguments, that the district court erred in concluding that 美泰 owned every idea of its employees and that even if 美泰 did own these ideas, the Bratz dolls did not infringe any copyright owned by 美泰. On the question of copyright ownership, 玛加 takes the position that Bryant was a low level employee, that the Bratz doll idea was unrelated to his employment at 美泰 (i.e., not created within the scope of his employment), and that 美泰 therefore did not own the idea/concept for the Bratz dolls. 玛加 further argued that certain terms of Bryant’s employment agreement, which assigned to 美泰 any inventions created or conceived during employment, were unconscionable and therefore unenforceable. On the issue of copyright infringement, 玛加 argued that the applicable standard for determining copyright infringement 上 the dolls at issue was virtual identicality (as opposed to the基本相似standard applied by the district court) because of the nature of the works at issue –具有面部和解剖特征的娃娃。

美泰’s appellate brief in opposition asserts that its employment agreement with Bryant extended its ownership over employee inventions/concepts beyond those created within the scope of employment (i.e., works made for hire). Were that not the case, 美泰 argued, the employment agreement is merely superfluous of existing law which automatically vests an employer with ownership of works made for hire. On the issue of copyright infringement, 美泰 argued that the district court applied the appropriate test –基本相似– in determining whether 玛加’s dolls infringed 美泰’卡特·布莱恩特的权利’s sketches/designs for the dolls. 美泰 asserts that the numerous details that form the dolls’特定的表达和功能比"thin" copyright protection provided by the virtual identicality test that 玛加 argues is applicable.

In 玛加’s concluding remarks to its appellate brief, 玛加 requested that the Ninth Circuit decide its appeal 上 an expedited basis, or alternatively, grant a stay of the district court’上诉法院的禁令’s decision. In oral argument before the Ninth Circuit, 玛加 again pleaded for a stay of the district court’s injunction, explaining that the injunction would be ruinous for 玛加. The Ninth Circuit panel inquired at oral argument whether the district court’s remedy, effectively requiring 玛加 to turn over the Bratz line to 美泰, was appropriate, potentially hinting that the district court remedy will not stand. An alternative and perhaps more acceptable remedy as suggested by the court would be some sort of royalty arrangement. The court also ordered the parties to participate in expedited mediation. While 玛加 has temporarily succeeded in obtaining a stay of the district court’s injunction, the appellate court decision 上 these issues and the determination of 玛加’的未来仍将到来。

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作者:
阿什利·梅洛(Ashley Merlo)
(714)424-8218
[email protected]