Expert Says “Don’t Mess With Exotic Joe”

Apr 18, 2020

“Tiger King” has proven to be one of the most popular programs on Netflix thanks, in large part, to its colorful main character, Joe Exotic. It’s watched by some 32 million viewers. Beverly Hills attorney, Omid Khalifehl who specializes in trademark, copyright and patent protection for major celebs, says that dozens of profiteers are seeking to trademark the names, “Tiger King” and “Joe Exotic” so they can mass market everything from hats, sweatshirts, and T-shirts to Halloween costumes, decorative seasonal stockings, and multimedia goods. He says that unlike the patent system where the first inventor to file an application is entitled to the rights, trademarks are not awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis. So, unless the applicants get Joe Exotic to consent to the use of his name, the Trademark Act will likely block these applications from registering.

“Tiger King” has proven to be one of the most popular programs on Netflix thanks, in large part, to its colorful main character, Joe Exotic. More than 32 million viewers have tuned in to follow the over-the-top antics of Exotic, the self-proclaimed “gay, gun-carrying redneck with a mullet” who owned a roadside zoo in Oklahoma featuring lions, tigers and other wild felines.

The massive popularity of the show has led to countless profiteers seeking to trademark the names, “Tiger King” and “Joe Exotic” so they can mass market everything from hats, sweatshirts and T-shirts to Halloween costumes, decorative seasonal stockings and multimedia goods. While these so-called entrepreneurs may believe they have struck gold, one Beverly Hills attorney who specializes in trademark, copyright and patent protection says “not so fast.”

“It’s common that when a cultural phenomenon like Joe Exotic bursts onto the scene, there is a mad rush of opportunists racing to file trademarks so they can cash in,” says Omid Khalifeh, whose firm, Omni Legal Group, protects the intellectual property of its celebrity and brand name clients. “While they may believe they have gotten ahead of the curve by cashing in early on the series’ sudden popularity, their chances of securing registration are slim to none.

“Unlike the patent system, where the first person to file a patent application may acquire rights to an invention, trademarks are not awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis,” “To earn a trademark, it’s the first entity who uses the trademark in commerce that matters, so Joe Exotic, who has been earning a living by marketing his name for years, is the rightful owner. So, unless the applicants get Joe Exotic to consent to the use of his name, the Trademark Act will likely block these applications from registering.”

Khalifeh says those who violate trademark laws and manufacture merchandise anyway may face lawsuits that can result in bankruptcy…just ask Joe Exotic.

“In one of the ‘Tiger King’ episodes, a lawsuit is filed against Joe Exotic by his nemesis, animal conservationist Carol Baskin alleging copyright violations because Joe Exotic was using photographs that Baskin owns,” recalls Khalifeh. “During the legal battle, Exotic admitted to using the images but said he had the right to do so since Baskin was not the original owner of the photos. He lost that suit and, along with other related legal victories that Baskin scored, Exotic ended up owing her more than $1 million. That bankrupted Exotic.”

Omni Legal Group has emerged as one of the nation’s most experienced law firms specializing in intellectual property protection. Its clientele represents a wide range of industries. For more information, visit OmniLegalGroup.com or call (310) 276-6664.

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