Morgans Hotel Group: Federal lawsuit against Vegas casino over Hard Rock moniker without merit

By Oskar Garcia, AP
Friday, September 24, 2010

Morgans: Lawsuit over Hard Rock name without merit

LAS VEGAS — Owners of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas say a federal lawsuit from the owners of the Hard Rock Cafe chain over their shared moniker is without merit.

Morgans Hotel Group Co. spokeswoman Jennifer Foley on Friday declined further comment on the restaurant chain’s complaint, which argues that the hotel’s party image hurts the name and justifies ending a 14-year-old licensing agreement.

Cable reality show “Rehab: Party at the Hard Rock Hotel” on truTV is one of several examples of what puts the brand in a bad light, Orlando-based Hard Rock Cafe International Inc. said in the lawsuit filed Tuesday in New York.

If the restaurant chain wins, the hotel east of the Las Vegas Strip could be forced to change its name. The chain of cafes known for its popular T-shirts and music memorabilia displays is separate from the hotel-casino that embraces the image of a rock-star lifestyle.

The restaurant chain says the hotel-casino goes too far, with “Rehab” depicting unprofessional, abusive staff members who are incompetent and offensive to the public and normal Hard Rock Cafe customers.

The lawsuit includes what cafe officials claim to be five examples of customer complaints stemming from the TV show, including pledges to never visit Hard Rock businesses because of the conduct portrayed on the show.

“Rehab” is based on a popular pool party of the same name at the hotel. The sprawling water complex includes several bars, cabanas, bikini-clad bartenders and a revolving door of celebrity hosts throughout the summer. Videos of the show on truTV’s website show crowded partiers mingling with personalities like Paris Hilton, and efforts by security personnel in dealing with unruly guests.

The restaurant chain says in its suit that hotel officials assured the chain that it would address objections to the show after its first two seasons aired, but the third season “continues to depict the same offensive and depraved conduct.”

The chain said it received even more complaints after the first episode of the show’s third season aired.

The June 1996 licensing agreement calls for binding arbitration in case of a dispute and doesn’t include an expiration date — calling the name agreement a “license in perpetuity.”

The lawsuit calls for damages and seeks to force the hotel to destroy everything it has with a Hard Rock label on it.

will not be displayed