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Are your ideas your own or does your employer own them? This is the question that set off the greatest toy war of our time.


When Carter Bryant began designing what would become the billion-dollar line of Bratz dolls, he was taking time off from his job at Mattel, where he designed outfits for Barbie. Later, back at Mattel, he sold his concept for Bratz to rival company MGA. Law professor Orly Lobel reveals the colorful story behind the ensuing decade-long court battle.

This provocative work spotlights the legal battles between behemoth Mattel and audacious MGA over incredibly successful toys and the ownership of an idea. Lobel deeply researched this riveting story, interviewing those involved, to draw attention to the contentious debate over creativity and intellectual property. She also explores female images and how we market cultural icons, from the doll that inspired all-American Barbie to the defiant, anti-establishment Bratz—the only doll to outsell Barbie in any year.


“…Lobel delves into the history of both companies and the backstories of various players. She also raises questions about intellectual-property litigation’s increasingly aggressive bent, which she argues poses the danger of stifling creativity and competition. A professor of law at the University of San Diego, Lobel spent years sifting through hundreds of documents and speaking with dozens of individuals related to the case. The end result is a thoroughly researched book that explains the legalese of patent, property, and copyright law in layman’s terms while providing an entertaining narrative.”


Publisher’s Weekly

“Turning the fine points of patent, property, and copyright law into the stuff of a courtroom thriller, Lobel chronicles the 10-year legal battle between two doll-manufacturing giants.”


Publisher’s Weekly Holiday Gift Guide

“… In her crisp narrative, the author pauses to ponder Mattel’s notorious litigiousness and Barbie’s iconic history, which is illuminating and contains some eyebrow-raising factoids—e.g., 1965’s Slumber Party Barbie came equipped with a diet book (first rule: “Don’t eat!”) and immovable scale set at 110 pounds. The epic trial between these two toy titans spanned a decade and became a dizzying, ego-driven melodrama….. Lobel’s research is representative of how cutthroat the toy industry can be, a fact that may surprise readers unfamiliar with Mattel’s long struggle to recoup Barbie’s image (“ice queen doll”) as it became replaced by customer fascination with the “modern, voluptuous, multiethnic” Bratz dolls. The author, whose mother is a renowned psychology professor, recognizes the “toy world’s grip on society,” and she bolsters her investigation with interviews and testimonials from attorneys, jurors, esteemed Judge Alex Kozinski, executives at both Mattel and MGA, and a barrage of financial reports and court documents. An aggressively researched toy story on the “doll-eat-doll world of litigation over inspiration.”



“For the book, a hair-raising account of a Barbie Dreamhouse-size Jarndyce and Jarndyce,

Lobel interviewed Judge Kozinski over lunch and happened to mention that, when she was a

girl, her mother, a psychologist, told her that Barbie dolls were bad for girls’ body image.

Kozinski professed astonishment. “The only thing wrong that I saw when I held Barbie,” he said,

joking, “is when I lift her skirt there is nothing underneath.”


The New Yorker

“Carter Bryant designed clothing for one of the world’s most successful toys, Mattel’s Barbie. When he was on leave from Mattel, he came up with an idea for a new, distinctly un-Barbie-like line of dolls, which would be called Bratz and would provide Barbie with her first real marketplace competition. But Mattel didn’t exactly take the competition gracefully; instead, they launched a lawsuit claiming that, because Bryant was a Mattel employee when he had his inspiration, they owned Bratz. It’s a big, complicated story, involving such important and highly technical ideas as parody, satire, fair use, copyright, and intellectual property, but author Lobel, a law professor at the University of San Diego, makes it easily accessible for readers with little experience with big-business kerfuffles. Like such writers as Bryan Burrough and John Helyar in Barbarians at the Gate (1990), and Kurt Eichenwald in Conspiracy of Fools (2005), Lobel doesn’t dumb the story down; she explains its complexities clearly and even elegantly. An outstanding business book.”


Booklist Starred Review

“Turning the fine points of patent, property, and copyright law into the stuff of a courtroom thriller, Lobel chronicles the 10-year legal battle between two doll-manufacturing giants.”


Publisher’s Weekly Holiday Gift Guide

“Like Condoleezza Rice, Ivanka Trump and Michelle Obama, Orly Lobel played with Barbie dolls when she was growing up. “Fortunately,” writes the San Diego law professor in her new book, “I was also encouraged to challenge the distorted realities of Barbie’s world. No toy has been deconstructed so thoroughly as Mattel Inc.’s iconic plastic doll. But Ms. Lobel’s “You Don’t Own Me” is something different. The world that she explores is not a dollhouse but a courthouse. Her brisk and engaging book chronicles the decadelong copyright clash between Mattel and MGA Entertainment Inc., an upstart rival that had a mega-hit with its “Bratz” doll line but that was nearly obliterated by Mattel’s scorched-earth legal offensive. Journalists tend to overuse words like “war” when writing about lawsuits. But if ever there were an example of a civil dispute meriting military metaphors, it is Mattel vs. MGA. According to Ms. Lobel, the combined legal expenses of the battle went north of $600 million….”


Wall Street Journal

“The Barbie we know is a blonde doll with a huge chest, a tiny waist and a dressing room full of outfits; a doll of multiple identities, adornments and accessories... Less familiar is hard-hearted, money-grabbing Barbie. It is this darker side that Orly Lobel describes compellingly in You Don’t Own Me. Along the way, she traces the blonde bombshell’s roots to Bild Lilli, a sexually suggestive German toy made for adults. In 1959 Mattel, founded by Ruth and Elliot Handler, launched a sanitised successor for American girls, named after their daughter Barbara. Soon Barbie monopolised the doll market, becoming a lifestyle brand for young girls. At its core, You Don’t Own Me is an exploration of a relatively dry topic: the intellectual property regime. Yet in the hands of Lobel, a professor of law at the University of San Diego and author of a well-received 2013 study of corporate innovation and secrecy, Talent Wants to Be Free, this case study in who should benefit from an employee’s creativity becomes something of a page-turner…Lobel argues persuasively that the toy industry is as “ruthless as the most cut-throat businesses in Silicon Valley and on Wall Street”. Ultimately this case matters, she argues, because it exposes the problem of corporate ownership of ideas. “Companies too easily weave their tentacles around every creative concept thought up by their employees . . . ideas developed during weekends and nights.” That is bad not only for employees, she writes, but also for innovation.”


Financial Times

“It’s the fight to preserve Barbie’s fame, reputation and profitability that Orly Lobel tracks in her captivating book...You Don’t Own Me is an extended case study that’s fascinating and consequential thanks to Lobel’s storytelling skill. Through her descriptions of flamboyant personalities and outrageous corporate scheming, she elevates the story of a protracted legal case into a page-turner that holds up a lipstick-pink mirror to both American consumer culture and corporate misbehaviour.”

Times Higher Education (selecting You Don’t Own Me as Book of the Week)


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