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What’s in a rock club’s name? UK club suing Hard Rock Café

A legendary rock ‘n’ roll club in Liverpool, England is suing the owners of the Hard Rock Café chain of restaurants over the use of its name. The copyright infringement lawsuit, filed in Las Vegas, accuses some of the Hard Rock locations of using the club’s name, Cavern Club, without its permission. But the Seminole Indian Tribe, which owns the business that controls the restaurants, says it has the right to use the name in the U.S.

The Cavern Club is best known for being the site of the first concert by a then-unknown local quartet that called itself the Beatles. The rock legends performed there nearly 300 times before going on to international fame. Other legendary musicians to perform there include the Who, the Kinks, the Rolling Stones and Elton John. The club owns the trademark rights to its name in the U.K., the European Union and in several other countries.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., Hard Rock Café International has a number of locations with rooms labeled Cavern Club, including one of the two Hard Rock Cafés in Las Vegas. The original Cavern Club claims in its lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, that the restaurant chain did not have the rights to use the name, and misleads customers into thinking the two businesses are affiliated. It also accuses Hard Rock of deceptive business practices under Nevada law, and of unfair competition.

The suit is an appeal of a Sep. 29 decision by the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board that found in Hard Rock’s favor. The board found that Hard Rock had the U.S. trademark on the name Cavern Club.

Source: Vegas Inc., “Hard Rock Café chain faces Las Vegas trademark lawsuit,” Steve Green, Nov. 27, 2011

John P. Aldrich
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