'Rehab' a Hard Knock for Hard Rock Hotel


     MANHATTAN (CN) - The company that licenses the Hard Rock Café trademarks claims the owners and operators of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas have "damaged the goodwill" of the franchise by allowing an "offensive" reality show called "Rehab: Party at the Hard Rock Hotel" to be filmed there.
     "Rehab" portrays the Vegas hotel "as a destination that revels in drunken debauchery, acts of vandalism, sexual harassment, violence, criminality and a host of other behavior" that most patrons "would find unseemly and objectionable," Hard Rock Café International (HRCI) claims in Federal Court. 
     It says the show conflicts with its projected image of "fun consistent with the democratic free spirit of rock music."
     HRCI claims the hotel's owners and managers allowed Brad Lachman Productions and the Turner Corp. to film "Rehab" at the Vegas hotel. The show is now in its third season and airs on the truTV cable network.
     "Rehab is a 'reality' television program that purports to depict events occurring during pool parties held on Sundays at the Las Vegas property," HRCI claims.
     It says the show also portrays hotel staff as "unprofessional, incompetent and/or physically and emotionally abusive to hotel guests."
     HRCI claims it received scathing letters from viewers who assumed it was involved with the show. Most of the letters discussed the on-screen behavior of "Matt," apparently a manager at the Hard Rock hotel in Las Vegas.
     "'My wife and I travel to Las Vegas every other year and stay at the Hard Rock; I'm sorry to tell you that our family will not stay there ever again," one viewer wrote, according to the complaint. "'I saw Rehab on TruTV and was appalled by your 'Little Hitler' Matt -- the so-called manager ... I will tell everyone I and have an opportunity to speak with, do not spend your money at Hard Rock.'"
     Another purportedly wrote: "'I have watched this season's episodes of Rehab and I must say after seeing the behavior of Matt, I am certain that I will not be attending any more events at Hard Rock in Las Vegas or any other city.'"
     According to the lawsuit, HRCI's parent company acquired the interests of Hard Rock Café co-founder Isaac Tigrett in 1990. Six years later, co-founder Peter Morton also sold his interests in the business, but kept the Vegas hotel and the option to build other Hard Rock hotels in the western United States.
     HRCI licensed the use of its newly bought trademarks back to Morton, so he could run the restaurants and hotels he had left under the Hard Rock name.
     In 2007, Morton allegedly sold his remaining interests in the business to HRHH IP.
     HRCI says the defendants issued unauthorized sublicenses to the Cherokee Nation, which allegedly runs a restaurant called Toby Keith's I Love This Place, using the Hard Rock Café trademark, in Tulsa, Okla., and to the Pueblo of Isleta Indian Tribe, which allegedly operates a Hard Rock Café in Albuquerque, N.M.
     The defendants also registered domain names using Hard Rock trademarks, HRCI claims.
     It demands an order ending the licensing agreement and directing the defendants to hand over any profits they made using Hard Rock trademarks without permission.
     Defendants are Hard Rock Hotel Holdings, Hard Rock Hotel Inc., HRHH IP, Morgans Hotel Group Co., Morgans Hotel Group Management, DLJMB HRH Voteco, Turner Broadcasting System, Brad Lachman Productions and Genco Entertainment.
     The plaintiff is represented by Bruce Ewing, Brooke Pietrzak and Gianfranco Mitrione of Dorsey & Whitney.