Like The Dude from The Big Lebowski, the "Hotel California," located on the Baja Peninsula in Mexico, is likely no longer a fan of The Eagles. Earlier this month, the iconic classic rock band filed suit against the hotel in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California seeking to take it to the limit by claiming that the hotel engaged in trademark infringement and other acts of unfair competition through its unauthorized use of the HOTEL CALIFORNIA mark. The band's position is that the hotel is marketing its brand through lyin' eyes because it has no connection to the band's famous song entitled Hotel California.
According to the complaint, the hotel originally opened in 1950 under the name Hotel California. However, the complaint alleges that the hotel underwent several name and ownership changes and was purchased by the current owners in 2001. After the most recent purchase, the hotel attempted to live life in the fast lane by re-branding the hotel to associate it with the band. For example, the complaint alleges that the hotel not only sells merchandise featuring the HOTEL CALIFORNIA mark, but also plays Eagles' music throughout the hotel.
To support its claims, the band points to internet reviews by travelers who have already gone to the hotel to underscore the confusion created by the hotel's alleged misappropriation of the HOTEL CALIFORNIA mark. These reviews include statements by hotel guests that identify the hotel as the Hotel California referenced by the Eagles:
Decided to take a drive to see the legendary Hotel California – which the Eagles rock band made famous. Much to our surprise, it is not located in California at all, but rather Todos Santos, Baja, Mexico!
The famous Hotel California which inspired the Eagles to write about it is a MUST SEE experience.
It tickled us that "Hotel California" was playing on the sound system while we were being seated. For the rest of the evening, The Eagles were played, and it really set a great mood.
To further support the claim that the hotel was misappropriating the band's goodwill, the complaint underscores the fact that the hotel even went so far as to file a U.S. trademark application for the HOTEL CALIFORNIA mark in November 2015 for a broad range of goods, including, clothing and accessories. Expectedly, the band undertook efforts to block the hotel's trademark application. And, as a result of the band's refusal to get over it, filed a trademark application in January 2017 for HOTEL CALIFORNIA.
The complaint contains two claims for relief. The first claim is for trademark infringement under the Lanham Act and the second claim is for common law trademark infringement and unfair competition. Based on the hotel's conduct, the band requested that the court issue both monetary and equitable relief. Specifically, the band seeks to recover not only the actual damages that it sustained, but also a disgorgement of all profits generated by the hotel. Not to be outdone, the complaint also seeks to recover attorneys' fees for the wasted time spent by counsel prosecuting the desperado.
A review of the court's docket indicates that the time for the hotel to respond to the complaint has not been fixed. The band may seek to settle this matter expeditiously on favorable terms to secure a peaceful easy feeling or there may be a heartache tonight if the matter proceeds to litigation. In all events, at the conclusion of this lawsuit, one way or the other, plenty of pink champagne on ice may be required.
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