A child's doll in a red dress against a blackboard

Controversy over OMG doll trademark heats up in court with accusations

By James Wan

What you need to know (in a nutshell)

  1. A mistrial was declared in a trademark lawsuit brought by toymaker MGA Entertainment Inc in which they were contesting claims that they copied designs for their “L.O.L. Surprise! O.M.G.” dolls from pop group OMG Girlz.
  2. A witness’s testimony that MGA stole ideas from the Black community may have irreparably biased the jury.
  3. MGA spokesperson said the company was “disappointed that the trial was cut short” but looks forward to “vindicating our rights in the next trial.”

Full Article

In a recent development, a federal judge in California declared a mistrial in the trademark lawsuit initiated by toymaker MGA Entertainment Inc. against allegations that it had copied designs for its “L.O.L. Surprise! O.M.G.” dolls from pop group OMG Girlz. The judge concurred with MGA’s argument that witness testimony accusing the company of stealing ideas from the Black community could have unduly influenced the jury’s opinion, warranting a halt to the proceedings before a verdict could be reached.

Previously, Judge James Selna had granted MGA’s request to exclude all testimonies about racism or cultural appropriation during the trial, as such statements could potentially hinder reaching a fair conclusion based solely on factual evidence and unbiased consideration.

An official spokesperson for both parties expressed disappointment at the inability to secure a victory in court but reiterated confidence in future endeavours to vindicate their rights legally without allowing biases to affect the decision-making process.

Representatives of OMG Girlz have yet to comment on the lawsuit filed against them by MGA. Rapper Clifford (T.I.) Harris and his wife, singer Tameka (Tiny) Harris, who owns Grand Hustle LLC, Pretty Hustle LLC, and OMG Girlz LLC, were sued in 2021 after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from MGA concerning their dolls. Their daughter Zonnique Pullins is a member of the music group formed in 2009.

In retaliation, the companies behind OMG Girlz filed a counter-suit alleging that MGA had intentionally modelled one of its dolls on the group’s image and emulated other aspects, such as their musical style, without permission. MGA subsequently initiated legal proceedings seeking affirmation that it had not infringed on the rights held by OMG Girlz. The trial commenced on January 17th of this year.

On Tuesday, MGA Entertainment Inc. requested a mistrial after the court heard recorded testimony from Moniece Campbell, one of their doll buyers, who had previously stated that she believed the dolls depicted OMG Girlz due to similarities in outfits, hairstyles, colours, and nicknames. In their mistrial request, MGA argued that Ms Campbell’s statement primarily conveyed her emotions about companies stealing ideas from African Americans and exploiting them without permission or compensation, an unfortunate occurrence within Black communities worldwide.

“It’s impossible to erase what has been said,” MGA stated, referring to the strong accusations made by Ms Campbell that were heard by jurors during the proceedings at the U.S District Court for Central California (No 2:20-cv-11548). This case concerns legal action against Harris, brought forth by MGA Entertainment Inc., about potential violations of intellectual property rights and copyright concerns over dolls produced under its brand.

The Harrises have retained Erin Ranahan, David Scheper of Winston & Strawn, and Chante Westmoreland from Sheppard Mullin Richter Hampton to handle their case. These three attorneys boast significant experience in legal matters relevant to this issue, forming a formidable team for the Harrises’ cause. With such expertise at their disposal, they are poised to reach an outcome that is both satisfactory and advantageous for all parties involved.