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Jury in MGA Trial Rules in Favor of Toy Company

Updated: Jul 5

T.I. and Tiny copyright infringement lawsuit against the company didn't fall in their favor.

Everyone involved in the case are  seen outside of the courthouse after the verdict
Left Photo: MGA Entertainment CEO Isaac Larian, surrounded by legal team, gives thumbs up following the verdict. Right Photo: T.I. and Tiny were seeing walking out of court with their public relations consultant, Tany Wiley-Brown. Inlet: Bahja Rodriguez, Breaunna Womack, and Zonnique Pullins pose outside of the courthouse (Photo Credits: Meghann M. Cuniff).

On Friday, a jury ruled in favor of MGA Entertainment, a toy company based in Los Angeles, in a $100 million lawsuit brought on by hip hop moguls T.I. and Tiny.

The jury took less than two hours to conclude that the 31 dolls featured in the lawsuit didn’t infringe upon or misappropriate the likeness of the OMG Girlz, a trio that included Tiny’s daughter, Zonnique Pullins. T.I. and Tiny alleged that MGA styled dolls based on outfits worn by members of the OMG Girlz.

According to Meghann Cunniff, their lawyer John Keville notes that he will pursue post-verdict litigation. In his closing arguments, Keville said:

“This case is about whether a big company can infringe [on] the creative works of others…that they think are small, that they think are not famous enough, that they think won’t be able to fight the billion-dollar company.”

Lawyers for MGA argued that the group didn’t have unique trade dress and they embraced hair colors and fashions that were popularized before their creation, claiming they were trend followers.

The jury defined the trade dress as such:

“Counter-Claimants, on behalf of the OMG Girlz (and hereinafter, the “OMG Girlz”), have brought a claim for trade dress infringement. On the OMG Girlz’ claim for trade dress infringement, the OMG Girls have the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence each of the following elements:

  1. The trade dress at issue, consisting of: the name “OMG GIRLZ” coupled with combination of vibrant hair color in non-monochromatic and contrasting hues—primarily in bright pink, vivid purple, and shades of blue—contrasting wavy and straight hair styling and experimental, fun, urban, and edgy wardrobes and makeup, layered clothing, voluminous skirts (i.e., tutus and other poofy skirts), and bold over the top clothing and accessories is distinctive or has acquired secondary meaning;

  2. The OMG Girlz own the trade dress;

  3. The trade dress is nonfunctional; and

  4. The MGA Parties used trade dress similar to the OMG Girlz without their consent in a manner that is likely to cause confusion among ordinary consumers as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or approval of the MGA Parties’ goods.”

MGA CEO Isaac Larian told reporters after the trial that he took the case to trial in order to protect his employees and their creativity. Though, the verdict brought mixed feelings for the self-made billionaire.

“I’m not happy because I wasted a lot of time, energy — my employees’ time, energy — to deal with an extortion. They knew from the beginning they don’t have a case, and they brought it anyways. And they picked on the wrong guy,” Larian said.

When T.I. and Tiny left the courthouse, with OMG Girlz members Zonnique Pullins, Bahja Rodriguez, and Breaunna Womack, they only spoke with one reporter.

“It’s horrible, but whatever,” Tiny said to Law360.

T.I. said he wants to hear what the jury has to say before officially giving an opinion, though, he respects the verdict. He mentions how he’s proud of everyone involved, especially the girls, his wife, and the team of attorneys.

“You can’t just lay down and take it. If you see, feel, believe and know for a fact that your intellectual property has been infringed upon, that your rights have been violated, you go through whatever means you can to take it as far as you can to defend yourself, your honor and protect your rights. That’s strength. I’m not discouraged because I know from which my blessings come. And with or without that, we gonna be straight,” the rapper said.

Evidence presented by T.I. and Tiny's legal team during the trial
T.I. and Tiny's legal team presented various side-by-side photos of the OMG Girlz against some of MGA's "L.O.L. Surprise! O.M.G. Dolls" (U.S. District Court)

During the trial, Keville questioned the company’s approach to litigation, specifically their legal battle against Mattel, Inc. According to Mattel, Carter Bryant, the producer of Barbie, sent sketches and a preliminary sculpt for the Bratz line of dolls while he was still employed at Mattel. The company claimed Bryant violated his employment agreement by taking his ideas to MGA.

Larian makes a clear distinction between MGA’s legal battle against Mattel, Inc. and its battle against the OMG Girlz.

“One is copyright. One is an extortion case, where your client lied and said that we were trying to do a license with them. And none of our dolls look like your characters,” Larian said.

T.I and Tiny attempted to persuade a jury that the dolls were examples of cultural appropriation and theft of intellectual property. The initial suit was declared a mistrial, after MGA argued that the cultural appropriation accusations ruined the opportunity for a fair trial.

The OMG Girlz were active from 2009 until 2015. Upon their breakup in 2015, each member pursued a solo career. The group reunited as a trio, without Lil Wayne's daughter Reginae Carter, during the Great Xscape Tour.


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