Hard Rock Responds to RLHC’s Lawsuit Over Infringement of Trade Dress

NEW YORK—Hard Rock Café International is refuting claims in a lawsuit filed by RLH Corporation (RLHC) in a federal court in New York, alleging that the hotel company is ripping off the Hotel RL brand geared toward millennials.

The complaint alleges, among other things, that Hard Rock copied RLHC’s trade dress for its Hotel RL brand, which is protected by federal trade dress law. RLHC is seeking compensatory damages, an injunction, Hard Rock’s profits from its Reverb chain, and legal fees and costs, according to the complaint. In addition to pursuing a lawsuit against Hard Rock, RLHC is enforcing its rights and remedies under its contract with The Gettys Group, which it believes is in breach given it worked with both companies.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Hard Rock International refuted RLHC’s claims, stating they’re without merit and that the company 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.”

Over the past few years, RLHC has built a brand focused on the millennial mindset for its Hotel RL chain, evoking the company’s Pacific Northwest heritage. Signature elements include a prominent coffee bar attended by trained baristas; a Living Stage, where local artists, musicians, activists, civic leaders, and engaged citizens can showcase their projects and points of view; The Steps, a communal, stadium-like seating area across from The Living Stage, where hotel guests and visitors can have cup of coffee, plug in and work on their laptop, or take in a Living Stage performance; and tech-savvy, forward-thinking front-desk experience that replaces the traditional across-the-counter room check-in process and check in via self-service kiosks or directly from their mobile devices.

There are currently seven hotels under the Hotel RL brand, and RLHC has plans to expand the brand over the next several years.

“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 Greg Mount, president and CEO, RLHC. “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 Corporation 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 Corporation to ensure that all of our brands are protected.”