THE CRUX OF a federal trade dress lawsuit filed by Red Lion Hotel Corp. against Hard Rock Café International last week are allegations that the latter’s soon-to-be-released Reverb brand bears several similarities to RLHC’s Hotel RL brand, launched more than two years ago.
One of those similarities is the company that designed both brands, Chicago-based The Gettys Group.
Hotel RL, conceived in 2013 by Spokane, Washington-based RLHC President and CEO Greg Mount and Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Bill Linehan during a car drive to Atlanta, targets younger guests with certain specific elements, the company contends in its suit. Those elements, present in the seven Hotel RLs in operation, include a lobby coffee bar, the “Living Stage” performance space for local artists and “The Steps,” stadium-like seating surrounding the Living Stage. Hotel RLs also include guest check-in via self-serve kiosks or mobile devices.
Hard Rock’s Reverb brand, according to the lawsuit, would contain all of these elements, down to a “Communal Steps” seating arrangement around “The Stage” for local live performances. The lawsuit references brochures and articles written about Reverb, which was announced in June. “RLH Corporation welcomes fair competition, but infringement of our trade dress is unfair and illegal,” Mount said.
Hard Rock responded to the suit with a single statement to the media. “Hard Rock International believes that the RLH Corporation’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.”
A Gettys Group spokesperson said the design firm would not comment on pending litigation.
Along with seeking compensatory damages, an injunction, Hard Rock’s profits from its Reverb chain, and legal fees and costs in its lawsuit, RLHC 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.”
RLHC has invested more than $3.2 million in developing the Hotel RL brand since 2014, including more than $725,000 paid to Gettys for its work.
The lawsuit also mentions a meeting in May between Linehan and The Gettys Group founder Roger Hill and Ron Swidler, a partner at the firm, both of whom had collaborated on the Hotel RL design. In that meeting, Hill and Swidler told Linehan they had been working with Marco Roca, Hard Rock Hotel’s head of development, on “a brand” that would launch June 5 at the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference, according to the lawsuit. “On Monday afternoon, June 5, Marco Roca took to the stage, just as Gettys had said,” the lawsuit states. “He announced Hard Rock Hotels’ new brand — ‘Reverb by Hard Rock.’”