Mattel accused of trying to influence MGA probe

Thu Sep 3, 2009 8:43pm EDT
 
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Mattel Inc's security chief must appear in court this month to testify about why the toy company gave gifts to Canadian police investigating Mattel's complaints of trade secrets theft against rival MGA Entertainment, a judge ordered on Thursday.

MGA attorneys learned about the gift of toy cars in an email obtained from Mattel in the protracted legal battle between the two toy companies over competing copyright infringement and unfair competition claims.

The email between Canadian authorities and Mattel's head of security, Richard De Anda, showed "an obviously improper attempt to curry favor in their investigation," MGA argued in court documents.

Canadian authorities declined to bring a case against MGA or a former employee Mattel had accused of stealing business information when she quit and moved to MGA's Canada operations, an MGA official said.

Mattel made similar claims against several former employees who went to work at MGA's Mexico operations and are now being prosecuted by Mexican authorities, an MGA official said.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Stephen Larson ordered De Anda to appear at a September 21 hearing to address MGA's concerns that "other gifts have been given to law enforcement officials by Mattel."

A Mattel spokeswoman had no comment on the order.

Last year, Mattel won rights to MGA's Bratz doll after a jury found that a former Mattel doll designer had sold MGA the Bratz concept while he was still under contract to Mattel.

In a separate lawsuit set for trial next year, MGA accused Mattel of copying Bratz with its Flavas and MyScene Barbie dolls and of ripping off MGA's Alien Racers toy cars with a Hot Wheels line, as well as unfair business practices.

(Reporting by Gina Keating; Editing by Richard Chang)