A hotel owner in Ohio (USA) is sued for trademark infringement, just one week before an open house is scheduled to show off the venue. The name of the hotel: Hotel California.
The suit is not filed by The Eagles as you may presume. Although the name Hotel California became well known though their popular song from 1972, it’s Ocean Avenue Properties that has filed a lawsuit, claiming that it has had the rights to the trademark since 1997, and that it has operated a Hotel California in Santa Monica, California since that year. Recently, they have begun to franchise and license the brand to other hotel locations in the state of California.
For Sebastian Rucci, owner of the Ohio hotel, it is simple. He states the allegations come from “a guy with one small hotel in Santa Monica, California, located 2,411 miles from our hotel in Austintown.” Furthermore, Rucci claims his business owns the sole trade mark to use the name Hotel California in Ohio that flows from actual use of the name, and not through registration of the name. Rucci also claims that a search of the internet will confirm that hundreds of independent hotels are named Hotel California in the world.
It is an interesting question whether or not it is fair, when someone owns a trademark for the whole US, but uses it in one state only. Consequently, he blocks the name from being used in all other states. The same applies to the European Union: if you claim a trademark for the whole EU, but only use it in – for instance – Greece, is it fair you block the use of this trademark in the other 27 countries?
The European Court of Justice stated there must be significant use, in more than one country, although – in rare cases – use in one country may suffice. We are eager to see how this US case plays out. It would be a pity if there would be only one Hotel California, because it is such a lovely place.