Tiger King became an overnight sensation in 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic and nationwide stay-at-home orders. It gave people a unique distraction from all of the chaos and civil unrest that was erupting throughout the country. However, not everyone welcomed this unusual television show.
Hollywood Weekly Magazine (HWM) is suing Netflix, the major streaming platform, Paramount, CBS Studios, and Imagine Television for a wide range of claims including trademark infringement, unjust enrichment, copyright infringement, and unfair business practices.
The magazine claims that it owns the trademark for “Tiger King” and that the unwanted association with the television series is harming its reputation. Allegedly, the advertisers for HWM are unhappy over its connection to what they deemed as a “tawdry television programme.”
HWM does have a U.S. trademark application for the mark “THE TIGER KING.” The application was filed on July 2, 2020 and is filed under international class 016 for “magazine columns about entertainment, politics and general human interest” (see U.S. Serial No. 90033173).
In its complaint, HWM states that its magazines are “distributed in over 300 locations across the country” and in 210 locations internationally, and has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in investments as well as “20 years developing and maintaining HWM as a ‘No Gossip, Strictly Entertainment’ family wholesome brand.”
HWM claims that they coined the term “Tiger King,” as it was first used in a series of publications that began in 2013 and ran until 2018, chronicling the life of Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage (a.k.a. Joe Exotic). HWM further claims that the publications “clearly served as the blueprint, concept, and basis for the [television] series and the misappropriated use of” their trademark.
HWM is not only seeking damages and disgorgement of profits (i.e. giving up the profits made by the alleged illegal acts), but also calling for the destruction of the show and all-related advertising for the show as well.
The lawsuit is called Prather Jackson, Hollywood Weekly Magazine, LLC v. Netflix, Inc. et al., and was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Western Division (Jackson is described in the complaint as “the founder and publisher of Hollywood Weekly Magazine,” and the individual responsible for the creation of the term “Tiger King”). The case number is 2:20-CV-6354. If you want the full details of the nature of the lawsuit, you can read the full complaint here.