Just because two entities had unnervingly similar and equally grotesque ideas for marketing fashion to youngsters doesn't mean that copyright infringement is involved. That was the judge's finding in the case of Belair v. MGA Entertainment Inc. et al..
After closely following the litigation between Mattel and MGA Entertainment, the company responsible for inflicting Bratz on the youth of America, we turned our attention to the case at hand (see "It Ain't Over Yet").
In a nutshell: Photographer Bernard Belair created an ad for Steve Madden shoes which ran in the August 1999 issue of Seventeen and featured girls with rail-thin bodies, elongated limbs and large heads and feet. The creator of the Bratz characters, Carter Bryant, included the ad with some materials given to the sculptor who developed the Bratz prototype doll.
Although it is a fact that the Belair ad served as inspiration for the "absurdly large-headed" dolls (the judge's description, not ours, though we concur), Judge Shira A. Scheindlin disagreed with Belair's claim of copyright infringement.
"It is undisputed that MGA was aware of the Steve Madden look and sought to capitalize on it," wrote Judge Scheindlin. "But that is not enough to justify a finding of infringement. Stirring one’s memory of a copyrighted character is not the same as appearing to be substantially similar to that character, and only the latter is infringement.”
So if you're in the market for dolls sometimes described as "prosti-tots," you're in luck - they don't seem to be going away anytime soon.