Hey all you cool cats and kittens, by now you’ve probably heard that everyone’s favorite villain Carole Baskin (of the Netflix show “Tiger King” fame), has been cast as a contestant on the upcoming season of Dancing With the Stars. What you may not know, however, is that Ms. Baskin and her organization Big Cat Rescue Corp., now own the zoo formerly owned and operated by Joe Exotic.
In 2011, Baskin filed a trademark infringement lawsuit in a Florida Federal court against Joe Exotic alleging that the marketing campaign for his “Big Cat Rescue Experience” show infringed on the trademark rights she owns for a design of a tiger leaping over a stylized “BIG CAT RESCUE” text. She alleged the way Joe Exotic used the words “Big Cat Rescue” stylized over the top of a picture of a tiger’s face, created a likelihood that consumers would get his show confused with the branding for her organization. Joe counterclaimed, alleging defamation and tortious interference arising from these defamatory statements.
In sum, Exotic alleged that statements made by Baskin, including that his tiger cubs were held in poor conditions, treated poorly, and would be “killed and the parts sold off as ingredients for the Asian medicinal trade” were false. In 2013, the Court dismissed Exotic’s defamation claims, extinguishing the leverage he had in this legal battle. He entered an agreed judgment to pay nearly $1,000,000 to settle Baskin’s trademark infringement claims.
After Joe Exotic was sentenced to prison, and unable to make payments, Baskin again filed suit to enforce the agreed judgment. On June 1, 2020, a federal court in Oklahoma ruled Exotic had fraudulently transferred the zoo land and improvements to an LLC, attempting to keep it out of the hands of Baskin. Thus, the ownership of the sixteen acres of land, buildings, and even vehicles were transferred to Baskin. The Court’s Order can be found here: https://www.courthousenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/big-cat-ruling.pdf.
Nineteen of the tigers living at the Oklahoma zoo now live on a sanctuary in Colorado. Baskin will be dancing to “Eye of the Tiger” during the Dancing With The Stars season premiere on September 14.