The hit documentary series follows former zookeeper Joe Exotic – real name Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage – though the Hollywood Weekly Magazine has alleged in a new lawsuit that it owns the ‘Tiger King’ trademark after coining the phrase in reference to Exotic in 2013.
The publication is suing Netflix, CBS Studios, Paramount and Imagine Television for a number of claims, including trademark and copyright infringement, unfair business practices and unjust enrichment.
They say that the nickname was used exclusively in connection with the zookeeper – who is currently serving a 22-year sentence after being found guilty of putting out a hit on rival Carole Baskin, and is also serving time for 17 other wildlife-related charges – until the Netflix series debuted. However, a trademark application for ‘The Tiger King’ was not filed until July 2.
Hollywood Weekly Magazine also says that its unwanted association with the series was hurting its reputation, and is seeking damages and disgorgement of profits, as well as the destruction of the series and all related advertising.
The magazine is distributed in 300 locations across the U.S. and another 210 in other countries, and says it adheres to a strong “no gossip” policy and has spent two decades building a “wholesome” brand.
“Recently after the Series was distributed for streaming, Plaintiffs for the first time were receiving comments from advertisers as to when HWM became a tabloid gossip magazine when the fundamental pillar of HWM is and always has been ‘No Gossip, Strictly Entertainment’ and always highly respected and well-known for this brand,” attorney Michael F. Frank writes in the complaint (via The Hollywood Reporter).
“The Series literally uses the [Tiger King mark] in its title, throughout the video, and then even shows issues of the HWM Publication itself within the video Series as well showing that they knew about it, accessed it, had access to it, and were even using it in the Series itself, thus establishing the [mark] was neither separately created nor developed by Defendants,” he adds.
The publication also alleges that advertisers have wanted to halt business because of the “very easily plausible and obvious connection” with “a tawdry television program.”
Meanwhile, a new Tiger King documentary called Surviving Joe Exotic by Animal Planet is set to be released later this week.
NME has reached out to Netflix for comment.