Willamette Law Online

Intellectual Property


ListPreviousNext


Belair v. MGA Entertainment, Inc.

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 11-16-2011
Case #: 09 Civ. 8870
Scheindlin
Full Text Opinion: http://www.cafc.uscourts.gov/images/stories/opinions-orders/10-1409-1416.pdf

Copyright: In order to succeed in a copyright infringement action, a plaintiff must show a substantial similarity exists between the defendant’s work and the protected elements of the plaintiff’s work.

Belair obtained copyrights and registrations on a series of photographs he created for advertisements, including copyrights on his “Angel/Devil Girl” image. MGA Entertainment (MGA) created its successful Bratz doll line, using Belair’s “Angel/Devil Girl” image to produce its initial sculpt. Belair brought this action against MGA for its infringement against his valid copyrights in creating the Bratz dolls. In order to prove infringement, a plaintiff must show that the defendant actually copied the plaintiff’s work and that there is substantial similarity between the defendant’s work and the protected elements of the plaintiff’s work. MGA admitted to actually copying Belair’s image in creating its initial sculpt for the Bratz dolls. However, the court found that enough dissimilarities existed between the Bratz dolls that actually went on sale and Belair’s image that no reasonable juror could find substantial similarity between the two. The court noted that had MGA released its initial sculpt of the Bratz dolls for sale, it would likely lose in an infringement action, but since Belair alleges infringement on the final sculpt, no ordinary observer would think the Bratz doll infringed Belair’s image. Since no reasonable juror could find substantial similarity between the Bratz dolls and the protected elements of Belair’s image, MGA’s motion for summary judgment was GRANTED.