Stars in Court in O.C.

Orange County’s federal courthouse occasionally hosts major disputes involving intellectual property law. In the past 12 months, three high-profile trials featured two rappers and two major tech companies.
Illustration by Andrew Hart.

Cardi B

The Bronx-born rapper (legal name Belcalis Almanzar) was sued for likeness misappropriation by Kevin Michael Brophy of Huntington Beach because a portion of Brophy’s back tattoo was featured on the cover of her first mixtape, “Gangsta Bitch Music, Vol. 1.” A jury returned a defense verdict for Cardi B after a four-day trial in October that included testimony from the Grammy winner. The star drew larger and larger crowds outside the courthouse as the trial continued, culminating in dozens of students from a nearby high school surrounding her after the verdict, asking for autographs and shouting their adoration.

Apple Inc.

The California-based global technology giant battled a patent infringement lawsuit from the company Pinn Inc. over the Apple AirPods headphones in a two-week trial last summer. An expert hired by Pinn’s lawyer pegged damages at 60 cents in royalty fees for every set of AirPods sold by Apple, or $42 million, but a judge declared a mistrial just minutes into deliberations after a juror brought a pair of altered headphones into the jury room for a demonstration prohibited by court rules. Apple then settled privately with Pinn for an undisclosed amount instead of pursuing a second trial.


Atlanta-based rapper Clifford “T.I.” Harris and his wife, singer-songwriter Tameka “Tiny” Harris, are seeking millions of dollars from toymaker MGA Entertainment for MGA’s line of L.O.L. Surprise! O.M.G. Dolls. The couple says the dolls infringe on the registered trade dresses of Tiny’s daughter Zonnique’s teenage music group, the OMG Girls. The first trial ended abruptly in a mistrial in January after jurors heard from a woman who bought the dolls and made comments about racism and cultural appropriation against Black people that had been barred in a pretrial ruling. A second trial began May 9.