MGA accuses Mattel of spying, stealing toy secrets


Mattel Inc. was accused by rival MGA Entertainment Inc. of spying on rival toy companies for at least 15 years and defrauding it out of secret details on more than 50 products, in an escalation of the battle over the popular Bratz dolls.

In a filing in Los Angeles federal court late Monday, MGA said Mattel workers, with the approval of executives, infiltrated rivals’ private showrooms to steal product ideas, price lists and advertising strategies.

MGA said the maker of Barbie and Ken dolls went so far as to print up fake business cards at Kinko’s to help it gain entry and obtain a “holy grail” of information about rivals.

Reports generated from the forays were widely distributed within the company and reviewed by Chief Executive Robert A. Eckert, the filing said.

Mattel allegedly gained access to the showrooms of other toy makers, including Hasbro Inc., Lego and Sony Corp., the complaint said.

Mattel spokeswoman Lisa Marie Bongiovanni said the company looked forward to defeating MGA’s allegations in court.

“These eleventh-hour claims are without merit. They are a cynical attempt to deflect attention from MGA’s own wrongdoing,” Bongiovanni said.

MGA made the filing four weeks after the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said a lower-court judge had wrongly granted Mattel ownership of the $1-billion Bratz franchise. This cleared the way for a possible Jan. 11 trial over who can sell the pouty-lipped, multi-ethnic dolls.