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RLH Corp. has filed a lawsuit against Hard Rock Café Intl. in federal court in New York. The complaint alleges, among other things, that Hard Rock copied RLH Corp.’s distinctive trade dress for its Hotel RL brand, which is protected by federal law.

RLH issued a press release detailing its suit on July 12. The following day, Hard Rock Intl. issued its own release, which stated: “Hard Rock Intl. believes that the RLH Corp.’s claims are without merit, and will vigorously defend itself against such claims. Hard Rock has more than 46 years of experience and we are the authority in providing premium, lifestyle offerings and authentic music experiences to guests around the world. As this is pending litigation, Hard Rock has no further comment.”

The dispute centers over the design of the Hotel RL brand, which RLH launched two years ago and currently consists of seven operating properties. RLH describes Hotel RL as “a distinctive brand focused on the millennial mindset.”

In its release on the lawsuit, RLH said: “Given the distinctiveness of the Hotel RL brand, RLH Corp. was surprised to discover in June that Hard Rock had decided to launch a competing brand–called Reverb–also aimed at millennials, which RLH Corp. believes plagiarizes the Hotel RL signature elements. It also learned that Hard Rock had hired the same branding group used by RLH Corp. to help define the Hotel RL brand–The Gettys Group.”

“While imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and it is indeed understandable that Hard Rock would seek to imitate our brand’s success in this market, we are not appreciative of Hard Rock’s wholesale infringement of our trade dress with The Gettys Group’s help,” said RLH Corp. president and ceo Greg Mount in his firm’s news release. “Hard Rock’s infringement is particularly troubling in light of its aggressive litigation strategy to protect what it considers to be its own trade dress. RLH Corp. welcomes fair competition, but infringement of our trade dress is unfair and illegal. We are prepared to defend our brands and will pursue all avenues available to RLH Corp. to ensure that all of our brands are protected.”

Gettys Group officials declined to comment on the suit.

RLH Corp.’s complaint seeks compensatory damages, an injunction, Hard Rock’s profits from its Reverb chain, and legal fees and costs. In addition to pursuing a lawsuit against Hard Rock, RLH Corp. said it is enforcing its rights and remedies under its contract with The Gettys Group, which it believes is in breach given the similarity in work produced for Hard Rock.


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