Bands work hard to build and maintain a certain image, which is why they have to react quickly when someone tries to infringe on that image.
According to a recent trademark lawsuit, a Mexican hotel, located in Baja, California, was allegedly trying infringe on the image of the famous rock band, the Eagles, by changing the hotel’s name to Hotel California. The hotel was also allegedly playing the band’s music in and around the hotel, and selling T-shirts and other merchandise with “Hotel California” emblazoned across them as part of the hotel’s marketing campaign for their new name.
The hotel’s original title was actually “Hotel California” when it was founded back in 1950. Over the years, it acquired new owners and new names, but when John and Debbie Stewart bought the hotel in 2001, they decided to restore its original name.
The hotel is now owned by a company called Hotel California Baja LLC, which applied for a trademark for the name of the hotel, and that’s when the Eagles filed their lawsuit against the hotel company in the U.S. District Court of Los Angeles.
It’s understandable for the owners of the hotel to try to restore its original name, and it’s also understandable for them to want to expand on the hotel’s brand through a trademark application and merchandising, but the famous song did not exist when the hotel first bore that name. Although changing the name of the hotel may not have been offensive in and of itself, the addition of the merchandise, along with the fact that they were playing Eagles music in and around the hotel, was enough to cause concern for the band. With the popularity of the Eagles’ hit song, hotel patrons could be confused into thinking the band was endorsing the hotel, according to the lawsuit.
Since the Eagles had not endorsed the hotel, or partnered with it in any way, they wanted to make sure the hotel was not improperly profiting from their hit song of the same name. Don Henley, one of the band members of the Eagles, who co-wrote the song along with Don Felder and Glenn Frey, said the song had nothing to do with the hotel. Instead, it was written as a commentary on how they experienced living the high life of Los Angeles as kids from middle-class families who had grown up in the Midwest.
The owners of the hotel deny having done anything against the law, or that they were trying to use the famous song for their own purposes. They also claimed that their marketing efforts were unlikely to confuse potential patrons, but when the Eagles filed their lawsuit, the owners of the hotel withdrew their trademark application. The lawsuit against the hotel company was then dismissed, which the two parties said was a mutual decision. The withdrawal of the lawsuit was announced on the same day the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office accepted the company’s request to withdraw its application for a trademark for the hotel’s original name.
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