T.I. and wife Tameka “Tiny” Harris’ lawsuit against MGA Entertainment Inc over glaring similarities between the toy company’s OMG LOL Surprise Dolls and the name, image and likeness of their rap group OMG Girlz has ended in a mistrial.
On Wednesday (Jan. 25), a U.S. District federal judge handed down the ruling after the rapper’s legal team played testimony from a consumer’s deposition, which was deemed inadmissible due to a prior ruling made by the judge.
The recording in question featured the witness testifying that she stopped purchasing OMG LIL Surprise Dolls due to her belief of T.I.’s claim that the MGA had copied the OMG Girlz and that the brand was engaging in “cultural appropriation.” According to court documents, the witness, Moneice Campbell, claimed that “hundreds of people” share her opinion that the doll line “idea is stolen from the OMG Girlz …(because) people often steal from the Black community and make money off of it.”
MGA attorney Chase Scolnick deemed Campbell’s testimony a “rant” about her refusal 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.” However, Judge James Selna’s previous ruling prohibiting any testimony or claims of “cultural appropriation” was “out of bounds” and could not be included at trial.
According to Selna, the playing of the deposition testimony was intentional on the part of Harris’ legal team and continues a trend of their attorneys defying Judge Selna’s prior ruling. “This was no accident,” Scolnick said. “This is the third time (the Harris team) and their counsel have tried to introduce prohibited testimony in violation of the court’s order.”
Following the ruling, MGA released a statement denying the accusations of appropriation, noting its own efforts in representation of minorities within the toy industry. “Diversity has always been a key value at MGA Entertainment in both our people and our toys. In fact, MGA brought diversity to the fashion doll category more than 21 years ago with the introduction of Bratz dolls. We are disappointed that the trial was cut short but look forward to vindicating our rights in the next trial.”
Another MGA legal rep, Jennifer Keller, attempted to shoot down the Harris’ claims by stating that the inspiration behind the OMG LOL Surprise line came from unboxing videos on YouTube. She also pointed out various examples of “OMG” being used in pop culture, including Usher’s 2010 single “OMG,” which was released prior to the formation of OMG Girlz. “They look like they raided Katy Perry’s closet,” Keller said of the trio’s wardrobe, which the Harris’ suit claimed was mimicked by MGA.
“This case is about greed,” the attorney said, accusing T.I. and Tiny of demanding tens of millions of dollars for doing nothing” and labeling the OMG Girlz as “trend followers, not trend setters.”
The Harris’ are adamant about the validity of their claim, alleging that MGA has a history of stealing ideas and concepts for their own products. “The remarkable and numerous similarities between the OMG Girlz and MGA’s OMG Dolls are unmistakable,” the couple’s legal team said in a statement. “Seeing is believing. MGA has gotten away with ripping off many with lesser resources before, and we intend to stand up for creators through this lawsuit.”
The OMG Girlz were formed in 2009 by Tiny Harris and included various iterations prior to its current lineup of Zonnique “Star” Pullins, Bahja “Beauty” Rodriguez, and Breaunna “Babydoll/JusBre” Womack. The group gave their debut performance on BET’s Tiny and Toya reality television series and also made recurring appearances on T.I. and Tiny: The Family Hustle.