The trial in the lawsuit and counter-lawsuit of MGA Entertainment against rapper T.I. and his singer wife Tiny has ended in a mistrial this week in Los Angeles. The rapper and his wife countersued MGA for trademark infringement as they claimed the company used their daughter’s group OMG Girlz as the model for its doll line L.O.L. Surprise! O.M.G. dolls.
MGA went to court last year seeking sole possession of trademark rights to its O.M.G. dolls brand after T.I. and Tiny sent the company a cease-and-desist letter over the infringement issue. The couple answered MGA’s move by countersuing.
MGA claimed that T.I. — whose legal name is Clifford Joseph Harris, Jr. — and Tiny failed to provide proof that they possess intellectual property rights of their daughter’s group. They also claimed the couple lied about having a deal to begin their own doll line based on OMG Girlz. The company also argued that they didn’t do anything “deliberate or willful” and claimed First Amendment protection.
After a prohibited video deposition was played for the jury of a woman saying that she stopped buying OMG dolls because she didn’t want to support a company that was stealing ideas from African-Americans, Judge James Selna granted MGA a mistrial. L.A. Magazine reporter Meghann Cuniff shared the trial documents on Twitter on Jan. 25.
“Jurors in@MGAEnt v. @Tip heard from a woman who said she stopped buying OMG Dolls because ‘I did not want to support a company that steals from African-Americans and their ideas.’ Today, a judge declared a mistrial because of it, agreeing with this argument from MGA’s lawyers.”
“Because of the incurably prejudicial cultural appropriation deposition testimony played to the jury by Counter-Claimants, this Court must declare a mistrial,” read the document. “The previously excluded testimony was nothing less than a rant by the witness about how she ‘stopped purchasing’ the O.M.G. dolls ‘because [she] did not want to support a company that steals from African Americans and their ideas and profit off of it and don’t give African Americans the profit.'”
Lawyers for Harris and Tiny — whose legal name is Tameka Harris — tried to get the judge to reconsider while noting there were no Black jurors, but they were unsuccessful. In a statement received by Atlanta Black Star, the couple’s attorney Erin Ranahan accused MGA’s attorneys of using bullying tactics to intimidate the couple while adding that they would not be deterred.
“Since the beginning of this case, MGA and Mr. Larian’s strategy has been to deny accountability, distract from the facts, and demean our clients–the OMG Girlz, and Mr. and Mrs. Harris,” Ranahan wrote. “The attempted intimidation and bullying tactics by Mr. Larian and his legal team are finally coming to light. We will not be deterred nor discouraged. We look forward to having a fair trial and bringing justice to the OMG Girlz and their enduring brand.”
A white juror spoke to YouTuber Nique at Nite outside the courthouse and said it looked like MGA’s lawyers were trying to use racism to rile up the jury by playing Tiny’s and OMG Girlz singer Zonnique’s lyrics in court.
“What are you doing this for? You’re trying to rile up people’s racist feelings against Black people by saying this is how they talk,” he said.
The juror also said it appeared as though OMG Girlz had a good case against MGA and OMG Dolls because of the name of the doll line as well as the packaging, logo and appearance of the dolls. “I’m sorry, I can’t believe it’s a coincidence.”
T.I. briefly spoke about the lawsuit during an appearance on “The Breakfast Club” on Jan 26 and described how his wife learned about the OMG Girlz being copied. “That’s Tameka,” he recalled. “That was her brainchild, her baby. Uh, it was brought to her attention, I believe, by some fans, um, a fan page.”
Charlamagne Tha God chimed in to say when he first saw the dolls, he thought they looked like OMG Giriz. “Ain’t that T.I. and Tiny’s group?”
Harris also said that after his daughter Heiress Harris was gifted one of the dolls, Tiny said, “Look! This is what I was talking about!”
The rapper added that he was proud of his wife and daughters for standing up to MGA.
“Regardless of however this shake out, I’m proud as hell of her and my daughter for even, you know, rolling their sleeves up, you know and, and going all the way with it, you dig? ‘Cause this is so many times, creatives uh, in the community man, they see travesties and injustices like this, and they just go with the flow and roll with it,” said Harris. “These independent Black women are standing up against this billion-dollar company and sayin’ ‘Nah, y’all ain’t gonna take our s—t… And I respect that.”
Harris added that the family is fortunate to have the funds to fight MGA and that hopefully, God will have the last say so in the matter.
A status conference is set for Feb. 2 for the parties to discuss restarting the case.