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Ti And Tinys Legal Battle

TI & Tiny's $100M legal battle against MGA Entertainment

Lindokuhle Mkhize

Lindokuhle Mkhize

30 August 20234 min read

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T.I. & Tiny's $100M legal battle

TI & Tiny lost $100 million in the OMGirlz dolls lawsuit, marking the end of a contentious 100 million legal battle that involved accusations of racism and extortion.

The Grammy award-winning rapper and his wife took to court in January this year. Their intention? To pursue an infringement allegation against the toy company MGA Entertainment.

The pair accused MGA Entertainment of being copycats. Why? The release of a doll collection called the LOL Surprise OMG Girls. The likeness of the dolls is presumed to be like the OMG Girlz pop group, formed by Tiny in 2009.

Background on TI & Tiny

T.I., born Clifford Joseph Harris Jr., is a Grammy award-winning rapper known for hits like "Whatever You Like" and "Live Your Life." 

Tiny, whose real name is Tameka Harris, is a singer-songwriter and member of the R&B group Xscape. The couple gained further popularity through their reality TV show, "TI & Tiny: The Family Hustle." They have faced previous legal issues, including TI's arrest on weapons charges and Tiny's involvement in drug-related activities.

Overview of the OMG Girlz

The OMG Girlz was a popular American girl group formed by Tiny in 2009. The group consisted of members Bahja Rodriguez, Breaunna Womack, and Zonnique Pullins. They gained prominence through their hit songs like "Gucci This (Gucci That)" and "Where the Boys At?" The group developed a loyal fan base and became influential figures within the pop music scene.

Reality TV couple fight for financial support

In December 2020, the couple lodged a cease-and-decease letter against the toy company. They insisted that the toy line infringed on their intellectual property. Shortly after, MGA Entertainment responded with a claim against the couple. The claim was filed with a California federal court to challenge the infringement allegations.

Further claims made by the couple include backdated conversations between the two parties. "TI" Harris and Tameka "Tiny" Harris produced articles of information while testifying. 

The articles were evidence of prior communications with the toy company. In 2010, MGA Entertainment began talks to design a Barbie doll line in tribute to the OMG Girls. Yet, failure to agree on licensing terms halted the negotiations.

The toy company allegedly refused to discuss compensation with the musicians. Fast forward to 2019, and the LOL Surprise OMG Girls are on sale for public access. Yet, no further contact followed from the toy company about the deal.

The couple attempted to make the jurors understand the impact of misappropriation. It hurt more black lives when cultural references became product sales. The skills to create art shaped black communities in itself.

The rapper couple claimed to deserve within the range of $100 million in reparations. The staggering amount warranted justice in relation to the toy company's profits. The toy company argued that the amount was extortion. When testifying, the CEO, Isaac Larian, called out the rapper couple for being liars.

Court ruling

The California federal court ruled over the short, ten-day trial. It took place on Friday, May 26th, to address the case. The court found no likeness or similarities between the pop group and the toy dolls. The court further abolished claims of infringement and misappropriation.

Yet, communications inside the trial shifted focus mid-trial. Rapper T.I. made racist allegations against the toy company's legal defense. Jennifer Keller had used the N-word while quoting rap lyrics from the OMG Girls. Her point? To highlight the aggressive words of their music that the toy company would never stand for.

The toy company's attorney was further accused of discrimination

The couple documented similarities between the toy dolls and the girl group. The "edgy clothing" and the "bright orange hair. " These similarities allegedly appropriated black culture and race. Keller's response? The group wasn't famous enough to have made those claims marketable.

She further responded with a trade infringement law analogy:

  1. Describing her appearance
  2. Highlighting her dress code

She claimed her appearance could be sued for trade dress infringement. The analogy aimed at ridiculing the claim by the Harrisses.

John Keville, the rapper's lawyer, interjected in support of her claim. His response validated that it could, in fact, become a trademark. Keville took the opportunity to highlight that her analogy validated his client's claim.

The individuals expressed disappointment with the verdict and juror deliberations. Tiny's sentiments towards the ruling were, "It's horrible, but whatever." Meanwhile, the toy company issued a statement to Billboardclaiming a mistrial outcome.

"Diversity has always been a key value," MGA said at the time. "We are disappointed that the trial process was cut short, but look forward to vindicating our rights in the courts at the next trial."

How does the criminal justice system protect trade dress infringement?

Trade dress refers to a product's unique appearance or packaging that sets it apart from others.

If an individual copies your IP without permission, you can take them to court. In civil court, you can request an order to stop the infringement. You can even ask for financial compensation for any harm caused.

The specific laws and penalties related to infringement can vary between states. So, consult with legal experts to ensure your information is accurate.

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Lindokuhle Mkhize, a skilled creative copywriter and content lead at Trademarkia, brings a wealth of experience in driving innovation and managing teams. With previous success in starting and growing the Innovation and Marketing department at her former creative agency, Lindokuhle boasts expertise in leadership and delivering compelling content. Based in South Africa, Lindokuhle's work focuses on key themes of creativity, effective communication, and strategic marketing.