|By Robert Evatt, Tulsa World,
Okla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News<>.Lawsuit cites local casino
September 24, 2010 - The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa is being cited by Hard Rock Cafe International for alleged improper use of the Hard Rock logos - part of a lawsuit that complains about "drunken debauchery" at the Hard Rock location in Las Vegas.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in New York, alleges that defendants Morgans Hotel Group Co., Morgan Management, HR Holdings, HR Inc. and HR IP - named as sublicensors of the Hard Rock brands to Cherokee Nation Entertainment - are providing a hotel and casino experience "incompatible" with the brand's customer reputation.
Cherokee Nation Entertainment, which obtained the Hard Rock license in 2008 for its Catoosa resort, is not a defendant in the lawsuit, and it's unclear whether Orlando, Fla.-based HRCI will ask the court to bar the use of the Hard Rock brand at the casino.
The lawsuit says HRCI wants to bar the defendants "or any third parties in privity with them" from using the Hard Rock name.
The allegations over the Hard Rock brand in Catoosa were a relatively minor part of the lawsuit, as HRCI's chief focus was on misuse of the brand at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, which is operated by Morgans Hotel and Morgans Management. The Catoosa resort is operated by Cherokee Nation Entertainment.
David Stewart, CEO of Cherokee Nation Entertainment, said in a written statement that the tribe has worked hard to honor the Hard Rock brand.
"Hard Rock Casino Tulsa has always had a unique identity that combines the Hard Rock image with the music and people that make Oklahoma great," he said. "We value the Hard Rock brand, which is why we agreed to put their name on our new $120 million facility. Our service offerings and gaming experience here are second to none.
"We carefully use the Hard Rock marks as agreed upon in our licensing agreement with HRHH IP LLC and Hard Rock Hotel Holdings LLC. We are not a named defendant in the complaint and it is up to the parties named in the complaint to resolve this dispute."
In a statement released to the Tulsa World, HRCI officials said the lawsuit is a proactive step to protect the integrity of the Hard Rock brand, which it said was damaged as a result of the defendants' unauthorized use of various Hard Rock trademarks.
Specifically, the suit said "the range of services, character of the establishment and the experience offered to customers (at Hard Rock Tulsa) is incompatible with consumer expectations for goods and services branded with the Hard Rock marks.
It also alleged that the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino sign used on the outside of the Catoosa resort "is not one of the trademarks whose use or sublicensing is authorized by the License Agreement in this manner."
Additionally, HRCI complained that the resort's Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill restaurant used the Hard Rock name in a way that puts Hard Rock subordinate to the name of the restaurant, and that the defendants did not obtain written commitments from the restaurant's proprietors regarding the use of the trademark.
The Catoosa location of Toby Keith's is operated by Norman-based Hal Smith Restaurant Group.
HRCI said in its lawsuit that it has no legal remedy for its complaints and did not make any specific requests for changes at the Tulsa facility.
In the portion of the suit concerning the Las Vegas hotel-casino, HRCI claims Morgans gave the casino a party image that damaged Hard Rock's reputation, specifically through the cable reality show "Rehab: Party at the Hard Rock Hotel" on truTV.
The lawsuit says the show portrays the Las Vegas hotel-casino as a place that "revels in drunken debauchery" and other actions that most people would find offensive, and portrays the staff as "unprofessional, incompetent and/or physically and emotionally abusive to hotel guests and other staff."
The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Albuquerque, N.M., which was sublicensed by Morgans to the Pueblo of Isleta Indian Tribe, was also cited in the suit, with allegations that Morgans failed to ensure the logo was used consistently and that the services, character and experience was compatible with Hard Rock.
HRCI licenses the Hard Rock name to 169 venues in 52 countries, including 134 cafes and 14 hotels and casinos.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Robert Evatt 581-8447 firstname.lastname@example.org >
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